Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book review: ROOMS by James L. Rubart

I just finished reading through someone's soul.

Rooms, a novel by James L. Rubart, begins with protagonist Micah Taylor inheriting a 9000 square foot home in Cannon Beach, Oregon from a mysterious (and unknown) great-uncle. This teaser alone was enough for me to want to read the book. The Oregon Coast is on my short list of hopeful vacation destinations and, honestly who hasn't fantasized about living in house on the beach -- or receiving a rockin' inheritance from some old dude you never met but had the good fortune of being the depository of his wealth?

Premise interesting --sold!-- and the hook-you quote on the cover promises some Lewis-like God-stuff? Cool.

So I dove in.

A software mogul in Seattle, Micah Taylor is happy with his surface relationships, bulging bank accounts, and the savvy girlfriend he's not-quite-ready to commit to. He has achieved fame, fortune, and, he thinks, purpose. Micah's journey to (and through) his newly inherited mansion on the beach, however, forces his perspective to shift.

The more time he spends in this mysteriously changing house, the more swiftly he morphs between ever-shifting alternate realities. The house itself changes almost daily. The better Micah comes to understand his house, the less he understands the domino-effect-like happenings within his software company and life in Seattle. He begins to question his sanity.

A wise new friend and a Godly new love inject truth and hope into Micah's coming-of-age-at-thirty-ish tale. An enemy of new acquaintance also informs his new life. Each choice Micah makes sends ripples of change through the universe, some good, some bad, and each often masquerading as the other. His perspective on these changes is poisoned and/or refreshed by other characters' input into his life. That is what makes this story believable -- because we've all been in Micah's shoes: getting advice that seems good and true, only to realize later that the action taken was the exact opposite of what we should have done. This universal experience, albeit shown in a supernaturally-charged setting, allows the reader to suspend her disbelief and enjoy the show.

What was missing for me? Not a lot, although I felt there were a couple of loose ends. One relational forgiveness issue (remember, I try very hard not to put spoilers in my reviews!) seemed to right itself a little too neatly -- it upset the tempo of the story a bit for me -- and a great loss in a younger Micah's life was not dealt with as well as I thought it could have (there seemed a lack of closure there for me, though Micah seemed okay with it.) There were a couple of head-hopping chapters centered on other character's points of view that I felt were not consistent enough throughout the work to really add to the overall flow of the book. The book was a little heavy on the exposition, a little light on the snappy conversation. But a tisket, a taskit, even though Micah thinks he should weave a basket. (that's a lame joke about Micah's propensity to wonder about his sanity throughout the book. Go with me. Laugh. Go ahead. It's okay to laugh at lame jokes to make someone feel better.)

Rooms is a good read. I would give it nearly 4 stars (out of 5). I didn't laugh much (at all? --but it's not really that kind of book.), but I did cry a couple of times due to touching, heart-rending scenes, or a line or two of explosive Truth that really captured my heart.

The cover of this novel features Robert Liparulo's recommendation of this "extraordinary read", calling Rubart's Rooms "part The Screwtape Letters and part The Shack." I can see touches of both works in it-- Liparulo's is a valid observation. The publisher's choice of putting that quote on the cover, however, was, for me at least, a bit of a "spoiler." DRAT THOSE MARKETING PEOPLE!!! The quote and its comparison to Lewis & Young's supernatural tales made it too easy for the reader (me) to correctly identify the inhabitant of one particular "room" of Micah's beach house (aka: Micah's soul) and, because of that (I think) it seemed like it took an extraordinarily long time for Micah to pull his head out of his bahoinky and figure it out for himself.

Without a doubt, James L. Rubart's Rooms is a mind-bending, imagination inflaming, and soul-searing read; a worthy novel which will challenge you to examine your own heart, your own choices, and your own reality. So follow Micah Taylor to Cannon Beach and maybe, in one of the tide pools near Haystack Rock, you could see your own reflection in his tale.

Because Fiction Mirrors Truth.

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