AMERICAN GOSPEL will be out in October and is Lin Enger’s third novel. The plot revolves around the apocalyptic vision of an old man whose message resonates with a nation in turmoil. Like his other novels, Undiscovered Country and High Divide, AMERICAN GOSPEL flawlessly weaves together personal stories of fractured families with historical events resulting in a satisfying, yet surprising resolution.
Enoch suffers a sudden cardiac death and rebirth and in the moments suspended between life and death, he has a revelation from God. The end of the world is coming. He preaches the word to his congregation and the media eats it up. Like wildfire it goes – gathering the lost and dispossessed from throughout the land to the Last Days Ranch; Enoch’s small farm on a lake in the center of the northern forest has been renamed for the imminent Rapture, the day that God will gather his saints together and they will rise like steam into the heavens. In his dream state, Enoch believes that God has set the date for August 19, 1974, just ten days after the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Set in a time not unlike our own, the nation’s soul is at stake, and Enoch has a way out (which just happens to be . . . up).
Amongst those who gather at the Last Days Ranch, are Enoch’s estranged son, Peter, Peter’s high school girlfriend, Melanie, now a famous movie actress, and their child, born to Peter and Melanie in their youth and put up for adoption. Melanie is a magnet for the media and Enoch does not discourage them. Enoch and his farmhand, Victor, clear land for tents, install showers and porta potties, and prepare for the ever-growing population of believers and curiosity seekers coming to the ranch. As the day draws near, Enoch seeks to reconcile his flawed family and deliver them to God during the Rapture.
Enger is wise in the ways of father and son relationships, and he can spin a mean yarn. The ending is so perfectly rendered – and surprising – that you will want to read it again and again.
I recommend AMERICAN GOSPEL for fans of Gilead by Marilyn Robinson and Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. Listen to my interview with Lin Enger on Superior Reads at 7:00 pm on October 22 and online at WTIP.org.
This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews.