A slam dunk for Dekker! The Sanctuary is not only hard-hitting and clever, there is a curve ball ending that you just don't see coming. I loved that there is also a message through the medium! If you liked The Priest's Graveyard, this trumps it!
Ex-priest Danny Hansen is serving time in prison after being sentenced to fifty years for the murder of two men. His love for Renee Gilmore and finding peace with God led him to confess and take a vow of non-violence. That new vow is tested when Renee receives threats against Danny's life. The new, experimental prison Danny has been transferred to has her cut off from him, so she has to play this game on her own. If Renee fails, Danny dies. If Danny fails, Renee dies. Both are pushed to the limits of what they believe is right and wrong, forced to make choices to save the ones they love.
"The Sanctuary" is the follow-up to Dekker's "The Priest's Graveyard," and I liked this one better than the first. The story moved along more quickly, and I had more compassion for the characters. Once again, the major theme is love. Judgement is also prevalent as we see Danny go back and forth between empathy and anger. The story will force you to put yourself in Danny's and Renee's situations. What would you do? How far would you go to stop injustice? To protect the ones you love? Is it an eye for an eye, or do you turn the other cheek no matter what the circumstance?
Danny Hanson's childhood and adolescent years were lived out in the midst of war, rape and murder, some of which was deeply personal. When he finished his war tour, he became a Catholic priest. He's wasn't just an ordinary priest-but a vigilante-priest who allegedly murdered two abusive men. Filled with remorse, he leaves the priesthood and lives out his life under a self-imposed code of non-violence. Is remorse enough? What about repentance? To Whom does vengeance belong to?
Renee Gilmore had her own criminal background, which included two murders. Prior to these murders, Danny had left the priesthood and Ã¢â¬Ëtechnically' married her. Though there was no forensic evidence of her involvement in those murders, Danny gave a statement of his culpability and was sentenced to fifty years in prison, as he knew she'd never survive prison life should they find her guilty. Transferred from Ironwood State Prison to the Basal Institute of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Danny begins his life of torture.
Dekker's book is written in his organized, analytical, well-planned-out format, with characters fleshed out as in true life, most of whom you would probably not want to meet. If one has watched Ã¢â¬ËShawshank Redemption,' you will have a basic idea of the despicable level of defilement man can reach in Dekker's book, The Sanctuary. With a distinct set of flawed human techniques of punishment and rehabilitation, you will find yourself horrified at the scenarios that take place in this Ã¢â¬ËRehab' Institute. Knowing prisons are hard and degrading, you will find Basal to be the worst of the worst. Yet Danny kept his self-imposed code of non-violence in this prison, though he is tested to break his own ideal. Will he keep his own code of non-violence?
The author will shock you with a twisted plot conclusion of why the circumstances are what they are. I was mostly hooked on one character based on his past circumstances, but I also had a hunch on another, but wasn't even close to the actual reason. Typical Dekker surprise ending!
I can't say I'd recommend the book, as I didn't find much, if any, form of redemptive value to the story. That to me is the crux of a Christian novel. You will find that man, without God, becomes more of an animal than true animals-depraved, without the influence of the Holy Spirit. And the torture and mutilation proved that aspect. I also found the ending to be less than ideal. Though Dekker does enumerate the numbers of people in prisons of their own making, the solution of breaking down those walls wasn't clear.
This book was provided by Susan Sleeman of The Suspense Zone in exchange for my honest review. No monetary compensation was exchanged.
Ted Dekker is at the top of his game with "The Sanctuary", delivering a masterfully written read that unfolds at a breakneck pace. I was immediately drawn back into the world of Danny and Renee, the characters first introduced in "The Priest's Graveyard", and Dekker cleverly interchanges between the points of view of Danny and Renee, while hurtling the reader towards the exciting conclusion. As with the prior book involving these characters, I am again blown away by Dekker's ability to take two characters who I should feel only disgust for due to their horrific deeds, and yet instead I find myself sympathetic to their plight and absolutely rooting for them. Danny utterly intrigues me as a character, a former priest who killed those whose crimes were escaping notice of the justice system, and someone who has now taken a vow of non-violence. The way that he is tested in this book is simply fascinating, and I should note that some of the scenes involving him are totally gruesome (especially regarding how he's tested) and will turn off some readers. But for those readers who don't have as sensitive of stomachs, this book should be at the top of their "must read list". It is completely entertaining, while leaving you thinking about human nature, about whether our justice system actually rehabilitates criminals, about our flaws as human beings and how we all have the capacity to be driven to act in ways we hope we never will. This book makes me thankful for God's grace, as we try to navigate an evil world and how to respond to it.
This is truly one of my favourite books from Ted Dekker thus far, and I give it my highest recommendation and 5 out of 5 stars.
Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Hachette Book Group/Center Street, for the purposes of this unbiased review.