Note to reader: Michael Kimball is generously offering a limited-time deal to my readers. Instructions are at the end of this review on how to download your free copy of Portals. A review is just one person’s opinion and another may have a different opinion of the novel than I did, and Michael’s unexpected gift to my readers gives you the chance to view the novel yourself. I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity. Book was given by the author for review. For questions on my book review policy, click here.
Portal’s by Michael Kimball has beautiful writing, but the story doesn’t begin well.
The story is advertised as:
If we believe we are a product of time and chance working the miracle of life upon the material universe unguided, then how we respond to the question might be quite different from someone who contends that a loving God is actively concerned with our personal welfare? in spite of any appearance to the contrary. For Jesse, the question is no longer rhetorical. His wife, Ellen, drowned in Stillman’s Lake when the two were celebrating their sixth anniversary . Now, three years later, Jesse is given a chance to go back and change the events of that fateful day. As with our own, Jesse’s world is made up of other people, each with his or her personal world view. Each with his or her own perspective on the questions we all have about where we came from, why we’re here and what the future may hold. It is through the hearts, minds, experiences, words and actions of these other individuals – some close to Jesse and others of more casual acquaintance – that Portals gives an opportunity to explore the merits of the varied opinions. (from here)
Kimball’s writing is visionary. I can see the place where the story takes place on Stillman Lake. The story begins with a prologue where the characters are only described as a woman and a man. Most stories begin this way when those two characters are not related to the main characters. When Chapter one begins, I feel like I am reading the prologue again (only re-worded) as Jesse re-lives his wife, Ellen’s, drowning. The prologue was unnecessary, since Chapter One explained the tragedy. I have no idea how many years have passed at this point. Chapter one doesn’t begin with a date, neither does the prologue.
The focus on the truck driver relieves the heavy reminiscing and gives the story a little color. Then, its back to admiring the scenery and dragging in back-story. Chapter one finally ends on a tense note with one nail painted on Jesse’s dog, Kai. The one painted toe nail is symbolic of Jesse’s deceased wife and it puzzles, even scares him as at this point. The dog has disappeared and returned. Strange behavior for an otherwise obedient dog.
Chapter three starts with, “Jesse pulled up next to James’ car, wondering what could have brought his brother into town. That James hadn’t called to let him know he was coming was typical…,” and I wondered why Jesse was questioning James’ presence when James was known for his spontaneity? Asking what brought his brother into town is obvious foreshadowing of things to come. I wish the book had included more dialogue, too. Some of the paragraphs should have been dialogue instead of telling us what Jesse and James did during the day. Inconsistent point of view changes existed in Portals.
I could tell the writer was getting into his writing as the extra spaces between point of views switched to no extra spaces. One moment I am in Savannah’s head and in the next I am in Bev’s head. We went from the extra spaces to omniscient point of view as I neared the end of the novel. The novel began to get exciting at 33%. Many new plots were introduced, and I would have liked to see some hints of these extra subplots early on in the novel, instead of back-story and memories. The plot is more about a struggle for Jesse’s soul as he faces the portal, and heavy religious talk is done in intervals.
One of my pet peeves is preaching in any story. For me to believe this is a natural conversation, it has to go with the flow of story. For whatever reason, I really had a hard time with the sections of conversation between Bev and Savannah as they spoke about God. Personally, I would have thought Jesse nuts for seeing the portal and talking with some guy named Tsor. The end of the story felt too pat as most people I know wouldn’t give their life to a murderer, except for Jesus who was God. They might confront, but they would do so with a trusted individual.
To sum things up, I would have liked to see tighter writing in this novel, more dialogue, and no omniscient point of view. Michael Kimball is no doubt a beautiful writer. He could paint a picture with words and my mind would frame it in a gallery to gaze upon it fondly, but when I am reading a plot with murder, mayhem, demons, and such, I like to see the plot move quicker. Because of this, I gave the novel two stars.
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