In a small, rural town in North Carolina, people keep to themselves and defend each other from outsiders. River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following is a church led by Carson Chambliss, who has its members hold poisonous snakes or drink poison to challenge their faith. A 13 year-old-boy, who is mute, is taken into the church to cure his muteness and something happens causing the boy's death. Then it is hard for the sheriff to get anyone to talk about what happened inside the church.
My take: 3 looks
Disturbingly real, and ripped from the headlines, this was a very fast-paced book. Living about 45 minutes from a church that handles snakes, I can relate to the fervor in which these congregations whip themselves while testing not only the scripture, but the Holy God Himself.
I come away with a fundamental question: how can people be so blinded by a man? Look at Hitler. Look at Jonestown and Jim Jones. This happens.
The book answers me: "It was like Mama was lost in the desert and had gotten so thirsty that she was willing to see anything that might make her feel better about being lost."
Simply said, these people are hungry for a leader, and once they find a charismatic and narcissistic man willing to lead them, they follow blindly. Even if it means dying.
Although, for those who are not this desperate, the book offers this explanation: "But since then I've learned to just go ahead and take fairness out of the equation. If you do, things stand the chance of making a whole lot more sense."
The book is more than a story of a church flock led astray. There are several dynamics here: marital issues, sibling relationships, friendships, and a dose of redemption. There is much more here than meets the eye. Maybe a little too much. It was on the heavy-side of drama in a number of areas, but the story moved nicely and it was a very interesting book with a satisfying resolution.
One of the best parts of the book was the Epigraph in the beginning:
Something has spoken to me in the night...and told me I shall die, I know not where. Saying:
"Death is to lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth."
-- Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again.