Reviewed by: Margaret D. DeWaard
Providence, by Richard Sezov. Self-published, 2021. Paperback, 248 pages, $9.70 (Amazon). Reviewed by OP member Margaret D. DeWaard.
Richard Sezov’s first novel, Providence, could be preachy since it offers an apologetic take on the events that unfold. But it is not: it employs classic storytelling styles to develop an interesting and even gripping story. The book involves two catastrophic events on opposite coasts, which massively influence the worlds and worldviews of many different but overlapping groups of people. Some of those affected by these events are Christian, and some are not: Sezov spends a good deal of time highlighting the differences in the way these varying characters respond to circumstances based on their religious convictions and worldviews.
There is one grounding, almost central, character: a pastor working as a chaplain at the hospital where many of the victims of the primary event are taken. He is going through his rounds and happens to meet many of them, having long and fruitful conversations with the victims and their families about grieving and how to make sense of sudden and horrifying events. These conversations are where we find the meat of the apologetic work, with one conversationalist in particular who stands out.
This conspicuous character is a sociologist who prides herself on her ability rationally to take down religion, specifically Christianity, and has a very antagonistic attitude toward the idea of God. This interaction happens in chapter 27 and covers quite a bit of apologetic ground. The conversation primarily centers around atheists’ inability to account for their sorrow at wrongdoing or tragedy apart from belief in God (and specifically the Christian God, not simply a theistic perspective) and the fragile foundation a secular worldview has to support feelings of outrage, confusion, and sorrow at the sin, misery, and evil in the world.
Sezov deals with these questions thoughtfully and fairly; there is no hubris in his apologetic style. He does not treat the nonbeliever as a fool or an unrelatable figure in any way. Instead, he sensitively addresses the many life circumstances and various upbringings that result in people believing what they believe, and he still takes the time to engage them. His willingness to take on multiple complex topics and serious emotional experiences is evident and appreciated and adds a great flavor to the novel.
In addition to the apologetic nature of the book, there is also pure entertainment, as any good novel should have. The characters are easy to keep track of, and the stories are woven together well. The story is potently Christ centered and moves quickly, putting characters together in unexpected scenarios that play out in some surprising ways.
Overall, this was quite an interesting read, and would be great for both new believers as well as longtime Christians. Sezov’s initial work is especially suited for those interested in apologetics and the daunting conversations one may have with a nonbeliever in a time of need. Since this is a situation practically all believers have been in at one point or another in our lives, I expect that this book will likely resonate with and edify many.
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