It has been years since I read a Frank Peretti novel. I loved This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness, and Prophet, but he lost me totally on The Visitation. (The first three novels even made my 39 books I have loved list.) The Visitation was too weird, scary even, for my taste. (That didn’t keep me from reading it no fewer than three times–it was a morbid sort of fascination. I’m not proud of that. 😉 ) When I saw Illusion on the new shelf at the library, I picked it up and read the back, fully expecting to read about a monster or some weirdly supernatural phenomenon. When I saw that this novel is merely about time traveling magicians or some such, I thought I’d give it a try. It turns out that I enjoyed this one, and it didn’t give me nightmares or cause me to look over my shoulder frequently (confession: I’m a big chicken).
Illusion has a rather complicated plot that involves time travel that reminds me a bit of A Wrinkle in Time: Mandy Collins, wife and charismatic assistant of illusionist Dane Collins–is killed in a fiery car crash at the age of 59. But wait–who is this young, beautiful, innocent nineteen year old novice illusionist trying to eke out a living as a street magician? Dane does a double take and decides to take this young woman under his wing–what else has he to do since his beloved Mandy has died? Never mind that this young woman, Eloise, looks exactly like Mandy when he and Mandy met, fell in love, and married forty years ago. Dane works with Eloise on her presentation, style, and stage presence–the act itself she has down to an art. In fact, she is able to do amazing things, and even he, an accomplished illusionist, cannot figure out her gimmicks. Dane’s feelings for Eloise, and hers for him, are complicated. Is it possible that Eloise is Mandy, or is Dane hallucinating as the good doctor indicated he might after his and Mandy’s accident? There’s a bit of science fiction about this story, as well as a slight government conspiracy twist. Mostly, though, as Peretti indicates in an afterword, it’s a tribute to his wife and their marriage of forty years and how it reflects the love of Christ for the Church. I got that from it, so I found it touching. It doesn’t spell out any deep spiritual truth; in fact, there’s no explicit spiritual message at all, that I can discern. The protagonists are Christians–they attend church, pray, and have high moral standards, and Peretti manages to include these characteristics in a fairly inobtrusive way. I was honestly a little weirded out by Dane’s obsession with this young woman, but (of course!) it all comes right in the end. Fine literature this is not, but for a light summertime read, I found it entertaining and enjoyable. Peretti is back on my radar. (Simon & Schuster, 2012)