Reviewed by Fran Lewis
Heartache is defined as anguish, sorrow or distress. Sin is defined as an act that is regarded by theologians as a transgression of God’s will. There are so many sins and so much heartache within this novel that you will come to truly understand their meanings and much more. A group of people, who are easily swayed, easily manipulated and who are looking for something to believe in whether it is honest, true or read and you have the breeding ground for anyone who wants to brainwash and deceive people. Pastor Ryan who prays runs the Church of Resurrection preys on the minds, vulnerability and poor self-esteem of his congregation, wife, and young women. He convinces them that he a man who can foretell their needs, future and predict world events and more. Without him and his guidance they could not exist, live or repent the terrible sins that he claims they committed. This brings me to my review of Heartache and Sin by Charles Soto. This novel brings to light many issues that are controversial, will create strong discussions and possibly arguments and disagreements when used as a basis for a book club or family discussion. This is a book whose messages need to be heard.
Steven and Karen Wheaton live in Havana with his family and friends. Karen is diagnosed with diabetes and is told not to conceive. Upset with the diagnosis and other conditions that she is made aware of, she falls prey to the teachings, preaching and voice of a corrupt, sinister and deceitful man. Preacher Ryan preys on the minds of his congregants claiming that with his prayer and the will of God, he will make it rain and the drought will end.
Brainwashing is something that many people who want to believe in something and want to come true fall victim to. Karen is one who is innocent, sweet and believes the words of this man and so do many others, as you will learn when reading this book. Added to this her husband; Steven and his two brothers knowing that he is a fraud, use the Internet to bring him down. Confronting Pastor Ryan, Steven gets him to admit the truth and now he must fight to save his wife from this man and many others too.
Karen believes that Pastor Ryan is the answer to the prayers of the people of Havana. No one bothered to find out why he left his previous congregation or what he did to the young women there. Abuse whether physical, verbal or sexual is unconscionable and needs to be punished no matter who the source is or the reasons why they are committing the abuse. Pastor Ryan is guilty of all three and justifies it in his own mind and to his victims that he is right and they are worthless and deserve what he decides to hand them. Frightening and scary since a Preacher or any member of the clergy is suppose to guide, listen, comfort and provide guidance to help people that are in trouble or need someone to talk with you realize that this man is nothing but pure evil. But, Pastor Ryan does not fit the definition a clergyman and although Steven knows he is a fraud he needs to tread carefully before exposing him and make sure that he has the proof or he may lose Karen and a lot more.
What is unique about this book is that the author has the characters reveal their inner most thoughts and explain what they need to do in order to survive. Mary, the Pastor’s wife gets the strength and courage to fight and leave the confines of her prison.
The author speaks to the reader as he relates what is in the character’s thoughts and mind as Steven forges a plan to unfold and reveal the deceptions created by this Pastor and the many inhumane things he has done and is still doing. Berating and humiliating his wife and physically and mentally abusing her and praying on the minds of bereaved women he increases his flock of unsuspecting women on the pretense of trying to help them. Using the Internet and the postal system he has devised a diabolical plan that needs to be stopped. But, the worst has yet to come and his cruelty has not reached its peak as the reader will learn and author will impart as he reveals what Steven knows in his heart is happening and must be done.
Karen is easily swayed as her the young women that are now in the living in the family quarters. Their clouded vision and poor perception and need to feel wanted, hope and comfort allows this horrific man to prey on their weaknesses and things will only get worse. Pastor Ryan does not care that he humiliates, who he deceives and how he goes about funding his own treasury and confining those to his compound who fall under his spell and believe he is there help them redeem their sins, find solace and peace within his congregation. Steven, Anne Marie his sister-in-law have witnessed first hand what they know to be the truth and are frightened by the blinding light that encompasses the compound and the people within it. Knowing that he even imprisoned his wife and abused her physically makes him and this family moves ahead to try and stop him. But, when the unthinkable happens and Karen gets pregnant the course of action that the Pastor wants and Steven’s not only conflict but also jeopardize more than their marriage but her life.
Believing himself to be the true and only prophet and the hand of God, this evil man controls everything that oversees and all he sees. Feeding, as the author puts it, the starving minds of this improvised county. He needs praise, power, to instill fear, false hope and total domination of his congregation. With no respect for women as I can see it, and trying to keep his wife under his total control, Mary finally learns how to play his game in order not to be the object of his ire. But, can she? What is his true ambition? Will she survive the abuse?
This brings us to another controversial issue that the author skillfully includes in this bone chilling and thought -provoking book. The serious issue of Abortion and whether Karen, who has diabetes should consider a full term pregnancy and the Pastor’s crusade to destroy the abortion clinic in Fargo and the women who have had abortions in it.
An abortion that occurs naturally without any medical intervention when there is a physical problem with a pregnancy is called a spontaneous abortion or a miscarriage, while an abortion that is the result of any procedure done by a licensed physician or someone under the supervision of a licensed physician to purposefully end a pregnancy is called an induced abortion as defined in your dictionary.com. This issue becomes the basis for the end of the book and what finally happens between Karen and Steven and their unborn child. The Pastor goes on a crusade to protest against the clinic and abortion and will do nothing short of destroying the women and the people within it starting with the doctor and his family. Using Karen in his propaganda to fight against abortion even though she should not go to full term and will not change her mind, the Pastor hides his true colors to in order to achieve his goals and pretends concern for her.
What happens will give you pause for much thought about the issues that are important in this novel. A man whose goal was to destroy, control and deceive others for his own purposes. Destruction of lives, towns, people and communities all because of one man. What does happen to Karen? Will Mary and her sons ever are free of the horrific hold the Pastor has on her and others? Will the truth about him ever be told and who will pay with their own heartaches and sins? I recommend this book as one of my best picks for the 2010 and I have read more than 25 since the New Year.
I am honored to have reviewed this book and hope to review Pride and a Prayer the author’s new book.