Nearly 30 years ago Sigmund Brouwer ’82 took an English class at Calvin that changed the direction of his life. “I waited until my third year at Calvin to take freshman English,” he explained. “I was just so bad in English.”
On the first day, Professor Peter Oppewal asked the class to write a descriptive essay. “He read mine to the class the next day; I was mortified,” said Brouwer, an economics major. “I figured he was using it as an example of a really bad essay.” Instead, Oppewal applauded Brouwer’s fine writing. “It was the spark that got me going,” said Brouwer. “His offhand words of encouragement got me focused on writing.”
Eighteen novels and several book series later, Brouwer continues to write. His newest novel, Broken Angel, is a story about a father, Jordan, who made a terrible decision regarding his daughter, Caitlyn, and how he tries to make amends. The book is set in a dystopia, where an oppressive society attempts to control its members.
The book describes this dangerous society where tracking devices (“vidpods”) and cameras follow members’ every move. Conversations are recorded. No one is taught to read; in fact, books and reading are prohibited, and computers are personal but certainly not private. Appalachia, as it is called, is a locked system on all levels.
Jordan hopes to set Caitlyn free. “It’s really Caitlyn’s story,” Brouwer said. “She is a child of God who is lonely and literally a freak. She, like all of us, is going to learn to fly.” Caitlyn’s journey is a dangerous one with captors from both within Appalachia and from “Outside” trying to confine her.
Also blended in is a bit of science fiction that is actually more science than fiction, according to Brouwer. “That part of the book is based on the terrifying things we actually see happening in genetics: We can get beagles to glow in the dark, and there is a doctor in Egypt who is claiming that he’s cloned human beings.”
Brouwer explores the danger of a lack of accountability in both science and the church. “The real danger is in not questioning the role of faith in politics,” Brouwer said. “I’m not trying to make people agree with me on that; it’s just something that needs to be discussed more.”
The book is about a fundamental truth, though, according to Brouwer. “We fight and die for freedom,” he said. “Captive humans will always fight for freedom, and finding peace with God is the ultimate freedom.”
Brouwer said it is difficult to define the audience for Broken Angel. Though it is written for adults, high school students who read it identify with Caitlyn, he said. And while it has an element of science fiction, it should not be classified as a science fiction novel. In essence it is a story about a father’s love for his daughter.
Said Brouwer: “It can all be summed up near the end of the novel when Caitlyn discovers how to be free.”
Brouwer’s wife, recording artist Cindy Morgan, has written a song “Beautiful Bird” and released an accompanying music video that expresses the theme of the book. You can view the video at www.brokenangelsong.com.
A sequel to Broken Angel, Flight of Shadows, is scheduled for release in January 2010.
In Tandem: A Sea to Sea Cycling Odyssey by Peter Slofstra ’74, Belleville, Ont.: Essence Publishing, 2008, 392 pp., $24.95.
Told from the perspective of the tour’s only tandem team, In Tandem is an account of the 7,125-kilometer bicycle adventure and the 199 cyclists and volunteers who rode from Vancouver, B.C., to Halifax, N.S., in the summer of 2005 to celebrate the centennial of the Christian Reformed Church in Canada. Beyond a mere travelogue or training manual, the book is a celebration of community.
Moving Viewers: American Film and the Spectator’s Experience by Carl Plantinga ’80, Calvin communication arts and science professor, Berkley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2009, 280 pp., $24.95.
Many understand the thrill of being transported by a film, but what is it that makes movie watching such a compelling emotional experience? In Moving Viewers, Carl Plantinga explores this question and the implications of its answer for aesthetics, the psychology of spectatorship and the place of movies in culture.
Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry by Debra Shreve Rienstra ’85, Calvin English professor, and Ron Rienstra ’85, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2009, 286 pp., $19.99.
In Worship Words, the authors examine the role and use of language for praying, singing and preaching in the worship practices of the church. This goal is to help students, pastors and worship leaders come to a renewed appreciation of the beauty and power of words and to inspire them to use words more intentionally—to the greater glory of God.
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