19 April 2010

Review of Brilliant Disguises by William Thornton with interview and giveaway

Brilliant Disguises
William Thornton

Cameron Leon is a newly-hired worker for the Forster Foundation, a world-wide charitable organization led by a reclusive billionaire. To get the job, Cameron has to join a church. However, Cameron, still mourning the recent death of his brother Peter, decides he will only pretend to “get saved.” In the process, he impersonates not only a Christian, but on occasion his brother. Cameron continues to receive tearful phone calls from Peter’s widow, Cecelia, who wants to hear her late husband’s voice. Cameron, a born mimic like his brother, flawlessly impersonates him but feels the need for a personal kind of cleansing. In the end, Cameron discovers not only how many faces he has, but how many there are among the people around him. In the end, he finds he has been impersonating someone - or Someone - all along. According to Thornton, BRILLIANT DISGUISES grew from a longing to see the inner life of a Christian in a fictional setting. But the only way to make such a familiar setting appear unfamiliar to Christian readers was to have the story told by someone posing as one. Thornton says, “Probably anyone who has attended an evangelical church, or any church for that matter, has a story of someone who volunteers for everything, is there for every service, has been a model of prayer and devotion for what seems like generations. It could be the Sunday School director or the lady who helps out in the kitchen or the organist. Then one Sunday, they come forward during the dedication and announce that they’ve never felt they were saved. I wondered how that could happen, and I figured it would help if we were dealing with a character who was a born mimic.”

You can read the first chapter here: http://brilliantdisguises.blogspot.com/2010/02/brilliant-disguises-first-chapter.html

William Thornton is an award-winning writer living in Alabama with his wife and daughter. Brilliant Disguises is his first novel. Read about the book, discuss it, or contact him atbrilliantdisguises.blogspot.com

Questions and answers about “Brilliant Disguises” with William Thornton

Q: How did the idea behind this book come about? 
A: Several things inspired me. One was how, at times in church, you’ll find a person who comes forward to make a profession of faith who has been a fixture there for years, sometimes decades. They may be the Sunday School superintendent, or the lady who works in the kitchen for meals, or a volunteer in the nursery who never misses a Sunday. Everyone in the church knows them and looks up to them, yet they make that walk down the aisle and say they’ve never felt like they were saved. They may very well be a Christian, but doubts are eating away at them. I was interested in how that could happen.

Q: But Cameron, the narrator of this book, says clearly that he isn’t a Christian.
A: No, and that’s what made it interesting for me. Another inspiration was those cases you’ll sometimes read about where someone is sued over a morals clause in their employment contract, in which they failed to live the kind of life the company requires. I was interested in somebody who is compelled to do a “good job,” but by doing so, gets his life misinterpreted by the people around him who think it’s his genuine lifestyle. That allows you to see Cameron as an insider who’s really on the outside.

Q: Mimicry gets talked about a lot.
 That was necessary, because for Cameron to do the job well - to be convincing - he’s got to be a mimic. And when you encounter someone who can do an impersonation of someone’s voice or mannerisms, there’s always a certain kind of magic about it. You wonder how they’re able to do it, and what it would be like to have that ability. I took the inspiration for that from my brother, who seems to be able to do those kinds of things without even practicing, which is just appalling to me. (laughs)

Q: Evolution gets talked about too. Are you trying to get people to reassess their concept of evolution?
A: Not at all. That was a storytelling choice. Cameron is telling the story, and he espouses a rational/scientific view of things at the beginning. But mimicry in nature is part of evolutionary theory, and strangely enough, it’s also part of Christianity. We are compelled to live like Christ, to reflect His life, His teachings, His compassion, His sacrifice, and His resurrection. It’s not a parlor trick though, but necessary for survival. You might say we’re supposed to evolve into what He wants us to be.

Q: What works inspired you to write this book?
A: Several books, among them - “The Double” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, “The Human Stain” by Philip Roth and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” All of them are in some way wrapped up in this idea of identity.

Q: How did they influence you?
Besides the subject matter, they helped with the style of the book. I wanted to write a book about the interior life of someone going through the transforming work that is necessary for salvation. That’s usually handled in the context of non-fiction for Christian publications. Since I’m writing fiction, one of my models was the way Jewish writers craft their fiction around what it’s like to be Jewish and part of American culture. I’m talking about writers like Philip Roth, Michael Chabon and Jonathan Safran Foer. The Christian experience in America is as much cultural as spiritual. God finds you wherever you are, but the place that you come from has a lot to say about who you are, or who you think you are. 

My Review:
The first chapter got me in and I wanted to read more. I found the story interesting and very believable. Cam pretends to be a Christian to get a job and continues the act. It was interesting seeing how Cam keeps up the act but in the same time you can see how God is pursuing him.
I like the narrative style William uses for the book it adds to the story. As I read the book it made me think as there are people who will make the choice to follow Christ and it is often our of emotion or the feeling its expected for them to go forward. Cam was included into things so soon after he went forward and I think it also shows how sometimes new christians thrust into the deep end and asked to take on roles without getting the counseling and support they need first.
I loved how we see how Cam thought and the way his mind ticked. I found this book made me do alot of thinking while reading and was very thought provoking. This is a great read.

If you would like a chance to win this book please leave a comment and if I dont already have a way to reach you leave a contact email (myemail at email dot com) by Wednesday 28th 6 pm Australian time. I will give a second entry in the drawer if you recommend a friend and they tell me you sent them.


Jo Ann Crow said...

So nice to find your review and interview with Bill. I have known the writer for a long time...watched him through his teenage years and early twenties as he was a member of the same church I am. I have followed his career through journalism, watched him grow as husband and father, and am thrilled he has taken the next step as author! Such encouragement as your blog and it's contents can only serve to spur him on! Enjoyed it completely! Keep up the good work!

Julia said...

Wow, this book sounds really interesting and different in its theme. I would love to read it.


Tribute Books said...

Great review, count me in ,Thanks!info@tribute-books.com

Barb said...

This was a great interview and review. The book sounds very interesting and unusual. Please enter me in the drawing.


Thanks, Barb

Patsy said...

Jenny, this book sounds interesting! Count me in on the giveaway.

Wyn said...

this sounds like a great book. Count me in the draw. Thanks.

wyndyc at gmail dot com

Nancy Sanders said...

This sounds like a really interesting story. I am always looking for books to read

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