Evangelism

Review: Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez

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Book Details

  • Author:  Sigrid Nunez
  • Genre:  Dystopia Literature
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN: 1594487669
  • Publisher: Riverhead (September 16, 2010)
  • Sold by: Penguin Publishing
  • Cost:  $9.99 on Kindle, $25.95 print copy
  • Click to Purchase
  • Author’s Website
  • Author InterviewBelletrista

A Quick Reference:

  • Target Audience:  Adults, mature teens (please note:  this is not a YA book).
  • Pace of Book:  Fast in the beginning, slow in the middle, very fast at the end
  • Writing:  Easy to read
  • Profanity:  None, if there is any, it is minute.
  • Sexual Content:  None
  • Violence:  Very little
  • Christian Element:  While there is quite a bit of reference to Christianity, this is not a Christian book.
  • My Rating:  A good cupcake with a little icing, 3/5

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Before reading my review, please know that I am including spoilers.

To write an adequate review, I couldn’t exclude what happened in the book.

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This Review has SPOILERS!

My Review:

This is a story that starts out rather fast paced, in the beginning.  I remember reading this while at the nail salon and across from me, the nail technician had on a face mask.  Hmmm….a little too coincidental perhaps, but it really set the mood for the story.  I was immediately engulfed in what was happening to Cole and his parents, while also reaching for my own hand sanitizer.  This is a story that is quite possible, perhaps not plausible, but it certainly stirs emotions and raises questions.

Because this story is told through the perception of a young teenage boy, I did find myself asking lots of questions.  While it was rather creative to explore this pandemic flu crisis through the eyes of a child, at times, I wanted to hear from an adult.  Why?  Well, Cole does contract the illness and becomes gravely ill.  He does recover, however has the side effects of amnesia and his memories are rather choppy.  It would have been interesting to hear from his mom or dad, or another adult to give it an added dimension.  Nonetheless, Cole is quite a storyteller and his hallucinations/dreams/wishes of seeing his parents throughout the book is sometimes endearing and other times just spooky.

Cole is orphaned as a result of this pandemic flu that debilitates, kills, and forever changes the people of the world.  It was rather scary and somber to see so many people with limited resources, medications and protective gear (masks, hand sanitizers, gloves, etc).  It was surreal to see Cole ride his bike through the streets and recall his classmates, who were in school one day and dead the next.  While people are dying and the town is becoming rather ghost-like, people are also dealing with their everyday challenges of going to work, dealing with cancers, and trying to make the best out of a dire situation.

While a good portion of this book is based, or rather, shares Christian thoughts/ideas, this is NOT a Christian book.  However, I am a Christian and found it difficult to NOT read through a Christian lens.  So, the remainder of this review is based on that lens.

True, Christians get lumped together with everyone that believes Jesus is the Messiah. However, not all of us are the same in the way we choose to live our lives.  I didn’t feel that Christians were portrayed accurately in this book, nor did it give a good example of what a pastor and his wife do to lead their congregation.  The pastor has been married before and is a recovering alcoholic, who turns to alcohol (not God) when he breaks out in the shingles (or the “devil’s whip”, as it is referred to in the book).  As I mentioned earlier, it didn’t seem plausible to me that PW would have remained prayerful and steadfast in his faith, yet quickly turn to alcohol when he breaks out in shingles.  Tracy is uneducated, has a speech impediment, and is a fragile kind of woman, who homeschools Cole.  However, Tracy is obviously not qualified to teach and doesn’t think schooling is very important anyway.  This confused me because this was a family that lived in a town, where everyone relied on each other, shared their resources, and were not led by fear.  However, Tracy didn’t want Cole being “indoctrinated” with non-Christian beliefs.

Cole struggles with adhering to Christian beliefs because he doesn’t understand why his parents would be deemed to hell for not accepting Jesus into their heart.  When his community was turning their backs on one another, Christians (or Jesus freaks as Sigrid refers to them as), were issuing food and other resources that were scarce.  Cole’s mother didn’t want him opening the door to these “Jesus freaks”, yet it is them that comes to his rescue when he is gravely ill and  his mother and father have died.

Cole eventually goes to a orphanage, where the children are treated as if they are in a third world country orphanage.  I found it interesting that Sigrid Nunez didn’t refer to these places as shelters or group homes (as they are called today), which really gave it this morbid and horrible place to be at.  Cole becomes a foster child to a Christian family, who desire to adopt him.  Wyatt (or PW as Cole calls him) and Tracy see the world’s events as a sign that the “end times” are near.  However, PW and Tracy both embrace that and are not limited in their helping of others because of fear or worry.  PW encourages his congregation to help others and is reassuring during this time, which seemed a bit unbelievable to read PW turn to alcohol when he gets shingles.

Because everyone in Salvation City and abroad view children as “rapture children” (Singrid created this term, which she based on the indigo child).  A child as young as 3 begins preaching to at her church, children begin preaching all over the world and laying hands, and are basically seen as the final authority.  While there is a sideline story of Cole’s crush on Starlyn and Cole’s aunt entering the picture, the story is really based on Cole’s accounts and his point of view.

The end of the book ends rather quickly and seemed to me that children were being “raptured” at different times.  Cole sees these people as disappearing or running away, but I wondered if they were in fact being taken up to heaven to be joined with God.  Starlyn, a rapture child, is the first to disappear from Salvation City and the people become hysterical.  As they meet at church waiting on PW (who is drunk from the night before), the second in command preacher is Chem. Chem abruptly leaves the kitchen when Tracy enters, who is almost catatonic.  I was unsure as to why she was like that.  I also wondered if Chem had in fact been raptured up and left a notebook behind with one message.  That message, in my opinion was for Cole, as perhaps a last minute opportunity to truly commit to God.  However, Cole doesn’t see himself forgiving one person and rather than being raptured, he takes a bike ride through the town that is absolutely deserted and quiet. Thinking everyone has left the church to go home (although there is no indication for this), Cole begins to think of what his life will be like after he leaves Salvation City.

While Cole is thinking of his future, I was left wondering if he had in fact missed his opportunity to devout to God and also found myself wondering if anyone reading the book would indeed wonder if that is what is supposed to happen.  Because this isn’t a Christian book, nor is the author Christian, I am led to believe that my own opinions may not necessarily reflect what the author intended for her audience.  Again, I read this story through a Christian lens because there were so many references to Christianity and in the end, I felt that the message was not clear.  So, I suggest to other readers to read this with an open mind, not dive into it with a Christian lens, and perhaps you will leave with a completely different perspective.

In the end, I was confused about these flawed characters, uncomfortable with the inaccuracies to Christianity, and confused to what truly happens in the end.

Because this story is told with such authority, I think those searching God in their own lives will be given wrong information as to what it truly means to be “saved”, what the rapture truly is, and why bad things happen to good people.  I simply cannot end this review without providing some scriptures and resources.

Salvation by Grace

Scriptures on Salvation:

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”

Romans 8:16 ESV


“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV

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For books on the rapture from a Christian perspective , I really enjoyed the Left Behind Series, as it is written by Christian authors

*This book was provided for free by Riverhead Trade, through participation in a virtual blog tour with Crazy Book Tours.  No forms of compensation were given.