Nearer the Dawn

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Category: Self-published
Genre: ,
Date Published: March 15, 2014
Number of Pages: 222
Print Price: $.00
eBook Price: $.99

Hell is the absence of God... which means the absence of love. How does one come to understand that in a human way?

In Nearer the Dawn, author A. J. Avila introduces us to Frank Devore, billionaire, atheist, and doting single father to the most important person in his life, his four-year-old daughter, Audrey. While Frank had intended to have a child he could raise with love and security, without the ties and “baggage” that come with marriage, it becomes clear that all the money in the world can’t buy what Audrey needs: a cure for the malignant brain cancer that will take her life within a year.

Audrey is admitted to the hospital in San Cyprian, California, a facility known for its Dr. Julian Sentil, a man whose fame as a physician is spreading almost as fast as his desire for control and power. He is Audrey’s last hope for a cure.

Then Frank meets Monica Belton, a beautiful red-headed woman who, unbeknownst to Frank, is considered a witch by the people of the town and is shunned by most of the population. During their initial meeting, Monica rescues Audrey’s dog, Rags, from being run over by a car. After being treated to lunch by a grateful Frank and learning about Audrey’s condition, Monica proceeds to cure Audrey. Her method, however, alarms Frank; he strikes Monica and flees with Audrey to the hospital to have the renowned Dr. Sentil check for further damage.

To their amazement, and Dr. Sentil’s consternation, Audrey is completely cured; her cancer is gone and her brain is back to normal. While Frank is stunned and grateful, Dr. Sentil is stunned and suspicious. Who cured this child when he couldn’t? And what could he do to gain such power? Most importantly—what could such power gain for HIM?

In the meantime, Monica is waging a battle with Hezera, a demon whose primary target isn't so much Monica as her guardian angel, Abriel. Monica has a strong faith and connection to God and for this reason has drawn the wrath of Hezera. Hezera and Abriel have a long history; at one time they were both angels before the fall of Lucifer. Hezera, disgusted with God's command that the angels serve humanity, rebels; while Abriel embraces this opportunity to love and serve even more. The more Abriel loves, the more Hezera hates. It is a very explicit and detailed explanation of the difference between Heaven and Hell, love and hate. Kudos to Avila for explaining the reason for the fall of the angels in such a clear and engaging fashion.

Because of Monica's desire to love God more fully, she has the ability to heal anyone, the price being that she suffers the illness or injury that was afflicting the person she healed, although she returns to her normal self afterward. In this way, suffering is depicted as a way to love more fully, especially when there is little or no reward for the one who suffers, except to experience God's love more deeply.

Of course, Frank doesn't understand this; after all, he doesn't believe in God. But he's grateful to Monica for saving his daughter's life and finds himself attracted to her in a romantic way (the fact that Audrey has begun to suggest—pester, actually—that she would like to have a mother plays a big role in this!) To share Monica's life, however, means to share in her mission and suffering. Could someone who doesn't believe possibly be able to make that kind of commitment and sacrifice?

In the meantime, Hezera has discovered an ally in Dr. Julian Sentil and the depths of the man's depravity are exposed along with his lust for power. Knowing that Sentil has little concern for anyone or anything but himself, Hezera uses Sentil as an instrument to attempt to destroy Abriel... along with Monica and Frank.

A. J. Avila writes a powerful and compelling story about the ongoing battle between the forces of evil and the forces of good. The characters are well drawn with believable motivations, actions, and reactions to the events that surround them. Sensitive readers should take note that the author's talent for vivid descriptions also extends to the depictions of the evil acts which Dr. Sentil is willing to commit in order to satisfy his desire for power and earthly pleasures. His more depraved appetites are only hinted at, but it is clear that he is possessed by the spirit of the evil one. It is, however, necessary to remember just how terrible evil really is. The author contrasts these moments by writing equally strong reminders of the goodness of God and what it is really worth to humans.

Original Language: English
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Amy Bennett is the author of the Black Horse Campground mystery series published by Oak Tree Press.  Her first book, “End of the Road”, was the winner of the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery contest.  She is a member of Catholic Writers Guild.  When not writing, she works full-time as a cake decorator at Walmart of Ruidoso Downs, NM and part-time “slinging vino” at Noisy Water Winery in mid-town Ruidoso.  Her second book, “No Lifeguard on Duty”, will be published in April 2014 and she is currently working on the third book in the series.  She lives in Bent, NM with her husband and son, both named Paul.  Her website is www.amymbennettbooks.comand she blogs about writing and life in general on The Back Deck Blog

1 Comment

Dec 17, 2014 Chris Newman

I also loved the characters. I know it’s a cliché to say it, but Audrey is as cute as a button. And as a revert to Catholicism who had once been tempted by atheism, I could identify with both Frank and Monica. It’s difficult sometimes to believe in God when confronted with so much pain and suffering in the world. But when you give yourself over to God and the beauty of his Church, you discover a treasure beyond all telling. We can never fully know, this side of death, what it is like to actually encounter God in all His glory. Yet, in the last chapter, Avila explored in great depth what that must be like for both a righteous person and an unrighteous one. I thoroughly enjoyed both this and Avila’s other novel Rain from Heaven. I hope she will be writing more in the future.

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