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END OF STATE
Neesa Hart
Tyndale House Publishers
Futuristic Fiction
ISBN: 0842384197

Read an Excerpt

Left Behind, the bestselling series from Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye already has spawned audios and videos, graphic novels, a kids' series, and now, two new parallel series --- one military, one political.

First in the political series is Neesa Hart's END OF STATE, set in Washington, DC and centered on White House Chief of Staff Brad Benford and his efforts to maintain political and personal equilibrium as events of The Rapture unfold. As one-third of the nation's population vanishes, Benford loses his wife and three children, who had remained behind in California. (More on that in a moment.)

As in other Left Behind books, several storylines are introduced. First is Benford's, as he struggles to maintain his political clout in an administration hostile to him as a conservative while also admitting to himself his failure as a Christian to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. Second is that of the Reverend Marcus Dumont, head of New Covenant Evangelical Ministries in Crystal City, Virginia, whose many empty sermons now haunt him as words from Scripture become real-life drama. Third is the story of Mariette Arnold, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and ex-wife of a powerful senator. Fourth is Arnold's son Randal, a student at Penn State who drives through the wreckage on the roadways to be with his mother and becomes an important part of this small band trying desperately to come to terms with being "left behind" --- along with their growing knowledge that the world's tribulations have just begun. Subplots involving a vanished Cabinet member and the new Romanian president Nicolae Carpathia (familiar to fans of the original series) ratchet up the tension.

As these characters individually recognize that the sudden disappearance of so many people around the globe must signal Biblical end times, they must also recognize how, when and why their individual spiritual growth has been stunted. One of the most compelling scenes comes when Benford returns to California on a political mission and takes time to go home and confront his loss. The sight of his wife's green glass mixing bowl symbolizes her nurturing spirit, her love of heritage, her aesthetic warmth --- a lot of baggage for one item, but since Hart has to juggle so many characters and events, this works. However, I wondered why Benford didn't take the bowl along with his wife and children's clothing. Then I found myself distracted by the fact that none of the faithful seem to leave behind socks or underwear.

That observation may seem picayune, but every writer knows that distraction is deadly. There's a lot going on in this book, from large-scale disaster to small-scale salvation. Like a film director who must move back and forth between battle scenes to love scenes, Hart must shift focus constantly. Unfortunately in this book, distraction happens --- but given its purposeful ending, there is plenty of hope that the next volume in END OF STATE will continue to offer riveting suspense.

   --- Reviewed by Bethanne Kelly Patrick

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