Thursday, January 21, 2016

An Analytical Review: The Fragment by Davis Bunn

*This is an analytical review; for plot overview please read the book description or other reviews. My goal here is to help you understand in which ways you will be influenced by this book (in addition to offering a few suggestions at a literary level). But don’t worry: no spoilers.

Davis Bunn returns to the page with his latest historical fiction The Fragment.

Readers of The Pilgrim will recognize familiar elements ranging from characters (a primary female protagonist, a faithful supporting friend, and an angry critic of the faith) to an artifact of special significance. In fact The Fragment develops the characters better, although the weight and purpose, even the reasons and transitions are less understood. But for readers and enjoyers of The Pilgrim, The Fragment offers a unique vantage point in an overlooked period of history while etching in the same worldview: the world is full of critics & skeptics, dangers & threats which try to distract humanity from the healing offered through Christ. The Fragment adds some color to this philosophy in showing readers that…

The physical world is first a distraction from the things that truly matter, and only secondly the necessary context for discovering true reality.

Indeed, God has given and continues to give his grace to those who trust him. Healing and wholeness are available for any who seek it; any and all of life’s despairs can be absorbed by faith in God who uses people, things, and circumstances to encourage his children.

Although I disagree with the second part of this book’s philosophy (that the physical world is only significant in its bridge to the spiritual), Bunn imbues it in the narrative expertly. And he frequently weaves the subordinate truths throughout his narrative in a way that nearly compensates for his halting, mosaic plot structure.

The plot begins at breakneck speed only to come to a grinding halt 1/3 of the way through. From there it progresses slowly, eventually gaining some momentum to ultimately end. When I tried to map the structure, the story begins with constant conflict, followed by a resolve, then rising action, conflict, resolve… Now while many books utilize dual-conflict/climax in plots, I’ve never read a story which literally starts back at ground level for the second. This odd setup was compounded by Bunn’s chapter endings which were nearly all cliff-hanger. Each new chapter would begin in a new location at a later time with some decision having been made during the page edge between. This made it difficult to understand what, why, and why I the reader should empathize with the characters and story. Perhaps if the author simply reasoned with me on the page I wouldn’t be left wondering when Bunn tries to create artificial “aha” moments. I should state that sometimes it worked… particularly in the first 1/3 when everything was moving so quickly, but in that latter 2/3 it simply bogged me down like jeans slogging through a swamp and trying to do jumping jacks. Consequently I vacillated between belief and incredulity at the story’s events.

Ultimately, if Bunn is writing for Christians, which I believe he is, he succeeds in presenting them with an encouraging historical narrative. The book doesn’t really challenge Christians to believe anything different except perhaps that there isn’t always a happy physical ending. So I give it 9/10 stars despite its plot flaws, but I’ll round up for its target audience: 5/5.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoyed The Pilgrim or Christians looking for a one-day beach read.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

This review is crosslisted on Goodreads, Amazon, my blog, and CBD.