Author: J.R. Gray
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 300 Pages
At a Glance: Forsaken is a thoughtful and introspective look at free-will vs. blind faith, and I appreciated its message despite a slight reservation or two about its execution.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Titus has lived and breathed religion his entire life, tucked away from the rest of the world in a compound in northern Wyoming. He’s destined to be the next leader of the church, deemed so by the Prophet.
God spoke and with His word He created. But God made a mistake. Titus isn’t worthy. He was born sick and it’s solidified when he rescues the most beautiful man he’s ever seen.
Torn between fidelity to his faith or his soul, Titus must reconcile the two parts of himself before he’s discovered hiding among the chosen.
Review: Titus is doing penance—for whatever sin he’s been judged guilty of at the time—when he finds what he’s sure is an angel in a ditch near an isolated religious compound in rural Wyoming. The truth is, he has found an angel. Just not an angel of the heavenly variety.
Angel Rodriguez is a drifter. He’s a photographer by trade who left his job and home in San Francisco behind after a bad breakup, and has been wandering aimlessly since. Angel has never been a straight-passing guy, which is why he was targeted by his attackers and then robbed and left to face whatever God or Mother Nature decided his fate would be. Titus, being a good Samaritan and a good man in general, risks bringing Angel back to his house within the compound’s walls even though he didn’t gain permission to do so beforehand from the Prophet—the chosen one through whom the Almighty allegedly speaks.
The insularity of the cult and the brainwashing that causes its members to reject the outside world and accept the Prophet as supreme ruler and the word of law is portrayed well. It’s a productive commune that operates under the guise of normalcy—women are given permission to work (it irks me to even type that), the Prophet embraces his absolute power and covets it in what can only be called the most corrupt way, and the flock serves at his pleasure because they believe in his divinity. The community is self-sustaining, producing an income in part thanks to Titus, and as the chosen successor to the role of Prophet upon the current one’s passing, Titus has a duty and an obligation that will ultimately conflict with his sexuality and his feelings for Angel.
Because how can Titus be both Prophet and Human?
I had a great deal of empathy for Titus. He was such a sweet character who, despite his commitment to his faith, had also learned to lie by omission. His innocence, owed to the lack of real exposure to the secular world, was significant to his characterization as well as to his relationship with Angel, which made him all the more endearing. His individualism was in constant conflict with the Prophet’s twisted version of theology, and I related to the paradox of the divine gift of free will but not being permitted to use it to express his individuality. I couldn’t help but notice some slight inconsistencies in his knowledge base, however, that I hope were picked up on in final edits—Titus not knowing what certain words meant, despite being educated and apparently well-read, but then hearing other words that one could only describe as secular, without questioning their meaning. That aside, though, Titus’s struggle between what he’d been taught and what he felt in his heart and who he believed he was obligated to be was a pull that kept me emotionally invested in his story.
Angel was the perfect foil to Titus’s indoctrinated and isolated upbringing. Part temptation, part teacher, part savior, Angel awakens Titus to the desire for a life built on love rather than on sacrifice—Titus sacrificing himself and who he is based upon a sense of blind obligation and a perversion of biblical doctrine that has been used to imprison him rather than allowing him to celebrate his innate goodness. I was often impressed by Angel’s commitment to see Titus love freely despite how horribly his previous relationship ended. He put his heart on the line for a man who appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be a terrible risk, and I appreciated the very humanness of it. I bought into their budding romance and cheered them on, even if some of the relationship growth I like to see on page happened through telling rather than through dialogue and interaction.
A couple of the secondary characters stood out, one being Titus’s brother Paul, and the other, his neighbor David. David was a good friend, and while I don’t grasp on a personal level the sort of servitude Paul was committed to, there was never a question that he was a good and loving brother to Titus.
This novel could have been a lot more overwrought than it was, so kudos to Gray for not going over the top, but rather, keeping the conflict aligned with the setting and the premise. Christianity doesn’t look the same today as it did when I was a kid. The Jesus I grew up with was a hippie and a rebel who hung out with sinners; condemned the corrupt; preached peace, love, and understanding; and encouraged his followers to do for the least of these. Since my personal relationship with organized religion soured many years ago, I’m always careful about choosing books with a prominent religious overtone, but the author delivers the subject of this cult commune and the subjugation of its people in a way that didn’t overwhelm my ability to invest in the romance. Forsaken is a thoughtful and introspective look at free-will vs. blind faith, and I appreciated its message despite a slight reservation or two about its execution.
You can buy Forsaken here:
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