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The Isaac Project:
A Critical Book Review
By Vinnie MacIsaac
Sarah Monzon is a pastor/ Chaplain’s wife, a gifted mother of two, and now an incredible debut author in a class all of her own. Her fictional work explores deep and profoundly real concepts that every theologian engaged in practical ministry deals with; namely, what is love and how should it, both practically and theologically, be defined?
Sarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn’t enough, she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters. When she isn’t in the world of make-believe, she can be found in a small desert town in central Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings.
Often, when dealing with pre-marriage counseling, I tell couples that love is more than a feeling or even an emotion; but rather love is a verb; it is active. At the core of all actions, one action reigns supreme and that is choice. Love, above all things, is a choice and that is why love can never be forced.
Monzon, in her debut book, explores the idea that we are not trapped or held hostage by feelings and emotions in real love but rather by the sheer force of our own choices. Using Genesis’ Rebecca and Isaac as the ancient template for a modern tale, Monzon crafts a story that reveals when we are submitted to God, and determined to love whoever it is that God has really sent into our lives, right feelings will follow if we keep making right choices.
While this story deals with two young adults seeking God’s will for their lives, the applications are endless. How many people are trapped in dead-end and loveless marriages or have simply given up on the idea of ever finding real love in this life? The truth is, while we can’t control the other person’s feelings, as Luke finds out, in Monzon’s story, we can control our own choices and how we actively respond with them.
Some may read Monzon’s debut book and see the basic set-up as a proven formula, and perhaps even a good example of Young Adult fiction typecast storytelling. It is, after all, a romance story between Becky, the picture perfect young Christian girl, who has the perfect young girl dream job of running a ranch of horses for the altruistic purposes of therapy for the disabled and Luke, the dashing picture perfect fireman.
Becky is scorned and damaged by the scars of absent parents and lying boyfriends. She enters a prearranged relationship with Luke, the “just a little too perfect” fire fighter, whose motives are just too good to be true. While the reader could see this as stereotypical romance, another way to view it is Monzon perfectly exegeting her target audience.
While Luke is a little too good to be true, and just a hint too shiny and spotless in the area of motives (seriously, no man is that pure), the truth is, as a male reader, I was glad to see him being portrayed that way. Oh, how often have I talked with single Christian male friends whose number one complaint about dating is “Nice guys finish last” and “No matter what they say, women only want bad boys, and unless you’re willing to break their hearts and treat them like dirt they will never even notice you.” Meanwhile, at the very same time, single women go around saying, “All men are jerks, they only want one thing, and once they get it they are gone.” I think that is what is so refreshing about Monzon’s tale of Young Adult Romance, while her characters are typical in nature she plays them against type in plot development. Luke is as true to what is right as Becky is scorned and bitter to love. He must learn to love and accept her, even if, by all the apparent signs, she may never be willing or able to return it. Monzon, helps men see nice guys don’t have to finish last and scorned women don’t have to remain bitter, broken, and beaten in the game of trust.
As a first time writer, Monzon is incredibly impressive. And as a highly critical reader, I don’t impress easy. Her ability to craft first-person rotating narrative is second only to best- selling young adult author, Veronica Roth. Monzon has a true gift of being able to inject you into a scene and to make you see it, hear it, and sense it all the way around. She gives you enough detail and shading to build visual constructs without burying you in boring, endless descriptions of grander. I found her research to be varied, in-depth, and spot-on, repeatedly. This only drew me more and more into the story, as it added to the overall credibility of the book. Monzon masters the refined art of painting you a picture without forcing you to see that picture the exact way she does. Therefore, providing you with both direction and liberty in self-internalization of her tale as she unfolds it.
Lastly, the most impressive thing I can say about the quality of writing in this book is having known Sarah Monzon, personally, for ten years, the truth is, this book is so well written I did not sense ‘her’ in any of her characters. Unlike many first-time novelists, Monzon’s characters are not a pale reflection of herself or loved ones. They are their own “persons, ” and they belong fully to her story and not her life.
My overall critical rating is 8.5 out of 10. I believe The Isaac Project to be well worth both your time and money. I eagerly await more work from Sarah Monzon. I hope she veers out of romance writing for a while and expands her palette of genres in future works. As for me, I am praying she veers into dystopia fiction because her layering of characters and plotting would, indeed, shine brightly on that canvas. It would create an endless supply of moral and ethical dilemmas that Sarah’s spiritual writing could speak to, in a less obvious and more subtle way, to both a larger, more mature crowd or young adults.
Her book may be found on Amazon and is a great Kindle Unlimited download.
Other Books By Sarah Monzon (Amazon Linked)
Finder’s Keepers: The Fist of the Carrington Family Series of Novels.
12 Days of Snowmen: A FInder’s Keepers inspired Novella