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Surprising10/11/11| Travis McClainFraser, a Scottish TV evangelist, leaves for America ahead of a career-destroying scandal. George, an estranged friend of his from childhood, is dying. Leon and Saul are transient brothers, trading on the former's charisma and talent and the latter's conniving to break into Hollywood. Uniting them are a series of events, the full meaning of which is only revealed to the reader.
First-time author Ferguson weaves a fascinating tale of what he calls, "unexpected redemption." The pace of the novel is brisk, helped along by the brevity of the chapters (some are a mere two pages). In fact, at times it feels more like a collection of vignettes than a traditional novel; one can easily see Ferguson dashing off a chapter here or there, as his schedule and inspiration permitted. Given the philosophical and emotional density of some of the passages, it's actually nice to be able to turn the page and find a conveniently placed stopping point.
There are some distractions throughout; Ferguson replaces real-life names of entertainment people and businesses with fictitious knock-offs (for obvious reasons). It might be impractical to cast either Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts in the novel, but the fictitious name Meg Roberts (an "America's sweetheart" type actress) is a bit of a speed bump in the middle of this story. In fact, I found myself frequently wishing to get through the passages devoted to Leon and Saul and return to those relating to George and Fraser. George's self-examination in light of impending death (and his unexpected affair with the alluring and captivating French Claudette) touches on one of the most important themes of them all: potential. Fraser, meanwhile, has his own epic story (including a recurring dream in which Carl Jung appears to him to analyze what's going on with him). In many ways, Fraser's story recalls Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, and that's never a bad thing.