Monday, October 10, 2016

Review:Fallen: Henry Shepherd Series#3 by Michael Ozarks

Fallen: Henry Shepherd Series#3
by Michael Ozarks

30198563When his young wife dies two months after the birth of their son, Brandon is torn between surrendering to debilitating depression and surviving to raise the helpless remnants of his new family. In this cathartic confession, he drudges up the troubled details of his past, hoping to equip his children with a fulfilling and empowering perspective on who their parents were—and on what really matters in the vapor that is life.

My Take:
Having hopped into this series with this book, I got a bit confused where Henry Shepherd might be in the series. In fact, I searched the book, wondering if I'd missed him. But he wasn't in the novel at all, so it's pretty safe to say this book would work as a standalone.

The blurb also mentions the main character's name as Brandon, but the author was careful to hide the main character's name throughout the book. I've actually never seen that contrivance before, but you get used to it as it's written in first person.

This book reads as a memoir, and covers a lot of ground, over a span of some twenty-five to thirty years, as Brandon moves from an angsty pre-teen to a single parent. The fictitious account of his life is quite realistic, if a bit disturbing, and covers painful ground most of us could relate to in our various walks of life.

PG - In one scene Brandon sets up an ex-friend for a violent beating that turns deadly. Brandon is viciously attacked and left for dead by a gang of hoodlums while trying to change a tire in a bad neighborhood. Other than that, there are a few school-yard fights where noses get bloodied, and a somewhat brief visit into life and death with cancer.

PG - I believe there are just a few curse words in the book.

Drug Content:
PG-13 -  Drinking occurs to excess in a few places. One character struggles painfully with alcoholism. Marijuana and harder drugs are mentioned in passing and play a part in some parties where other adult content goes on.

Adult Content:
R - One character has constant sexual escapades. The main character recounts many of his own. There is a boss that evokes quid-pro-quo and several occurrences of sex as revenge or manipulation. One person is a prostitute. A boy in school is ostracized because of his effiminate behavior. College drinking and sex is common. The sex is not described, but several characters are partially or fully disrobed.

Christian content:
Scripture is quoted and remembered somewhat often, and is recalled at critical times to show that characters lean on their own understanding of God and their faith to make it through tragedy. The main character struggles with a lack of faith, a thirst for revenge, and deep-rooted bitterness and anger. He vacillates between jaded views of all Christians and a hope-so faith, finally arriving at real faith when the tragic need for it is critical. This is actually where this book shines. In places, the author gives a vibrant and solid testimonial account of faith when the going gets tough, and real faith juxtaposed against surface belief. Some of this could offend, but any faith-based material is solidly backed by scripture.

Final analysis:
The Christian faith underpinning this novel was clearly delineated and rather raw. It is this novel's best feature, closely followed by the realism in the main character's raw account of his life and struggles. I'm not really into memoirs, and in many places in this novel, the pace dragged and conversation was confusing. Attribution lacked in some dialogues, making it difficult to keep track of who said what. That having been said, the characters were raw and believable, the settings realistic. I would like to score this higher because of that, but with the pacing issues I couldn't grant more than four stars.

About the Author:
Michael OzarksMichael Ozarks is the pen name of a former struggling musician who eventually began a somewhat successful marketing business by learning how to operate video equipment on the fly one fateful morning. For over a decade, he has designed, strategized, produced, and written for Fortune 500 companies and their less soul-crushing counterparts. In his early twenties, the author dabbled with experimental manuscripts in order to purge all manner of smugness and ignorance from his creative process. Years later, in the wake of surviving a life-threatening illness while his children were very young, he recommitted himself to the written word, primarily in order to insist upon his progeny—whenever they are old enough to think they know everything—that their clueless father had, in fact, once been there and done that.

Currently, the author lives in southern Ohio on the frontiers of farmland sprawl with his wife, two kids, two dogs, and various insects and arachnids.

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