Heaven Sent, the debut novel by Montré Bible, is the story of teenager Andrew Turner who discovers there is a secret hidden by his family, and it has to do with angels. His parents are Andrea and Anthony Turner, but he lives alone with his mother. His parents are not divorced, and the mystery behind their separation is revealed to him as he learns about his family history.
Andrew’s mother has become ill, and he has no idea how to help her. Her illness seems unexplainable, but she tells Andrew not to worry. When his mother's biological mother passes away, the two of them travel from their home in Heaven, Texas, to Dallas to attend the funeral services. They stay with Andrea's best friend, Karen, the only friend who fully understands what is happening physically to Andrea, and it is through Karen that Andrew initially learns the story of his mother and their family. Their stay in Dallas ends on a rocky note, with a devastating event that could have left Andrew scarred for life. His faith and his trust in his friends help him through this shattering episode, and he returns home to Heaven. But the story is not yet over. More shocking events and revelations await Andrew, including the introduction to his father and a brother he never knew existed.
Heaven Sent is a story filled with the hint of supernatural powers, either God-given or from the Devil, that turns Andrew's life upside down. One of the many surprising things that happen to him is that he finally meets the father he does not remember, a man who has always been a mystery to him, and he learns that he has a twin brother, Anthony. The novel focuses on Andrew, however, always struggling with his faith and having a hard time with the family secret that is eventually revealed to him, keeping the story split between a more solid secular story and an ethereal-based one.
While I believe that any story can be made into a novel and written properly, at the hands of a skilled writer, Heaven Sent does not quite work. For instance, it is difficult to believe in any of the supernatural events that occur in this book. Despite not being of the religious persuasion, this reviewer has read a number of Christian-based fiction books that were very enjoyable, and it was easy to empathize with those characters. But, for some reason, the characters populating Heaven Sent feel more like stereotypes than real people, and it is difficult to feel any empathy for them at all - with the exception of Andrew, who was a very likeable teenager. Andrew seems to be the only character who stands out as realistic.
If one reads this book and sees the characters and the events as allegories on the good-versus-evil theme, the story can work; otherwise, one may find it hard to suspend belief while reading Heaven Sent. There is a preachy tone off and on throughout the novel, making it difficult to commiserate with the characters, even though outside the aspects of religion and faith, these same characters could have been more easily understood. For example, a scene involving Andrew and a friend discussing stories in the Bible works for those who heartily believe that the Bible is the final word on things such as evolution. But it is obvious that the author’s beliefs have been written into this novel, thus making the overall tone of the story one that will only interest born-again Christians. There is nothing wrong with this, but from the standpoint of a reader taking in a novel that could have interested more than a small group of followers, this takes something away from a novel that could have been more widely appealing, regardless of the beliefs of its characters.
As written, this reader felt like an outsider reading a poorly written novel. The effort is commendable, but this book isn't worth the time spent reading unless one is a born-again Christian with traditional old-fashioned beliefs. Montré Bible may be focusing only on a small core group for his readership, but if that is not the case, one will hope that his next book may be written in such a way that the reader, Christian or not, can enjoy it.