Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sacred Night by Valerie Connelly

Reviewed for Review the Book
Publisher:  Nightengale Press

I love this book!  Valerie Connelly has an impressive imagination full of mystery and wonder that keeps the reader enthralled throughout. From gritty Chicago to the jungles of the Amazon, this book takes on a life of its own, and what a trip!

Two strangers, talented but unsuccessful in their lives, are "hired" individually to perform their music once a week at Rita's Bar.  Emily provides vocals with guitar and Dan is a pianist. This is their first performance and the place is packed. Unknown to everyone there, the Grim Reaper is waiting in the wings. Terrorists driving a car bomb for reasons we are not yet privy to, are about to come crashing through the front window.  Only two survive the horrendous blast. Our newly introduced musicians are found alive but unconscious. Rita has disappeared and no one knows if she was vaporized along with all the patrons, or left before the bomb detonation. No bodies are ever recovered.

In another part of the world, not far from Belem, Brazil, an elderly chief of the Tokablaki tribe is about to partake of a ritual which will return him to his earlier vibrant self. A form of rebirth, a kind of fountain of youth.  This ritual had been passed on through the ages, and soon it will be his "Sacred Night".  This ritual will involve the retrieval and ingestion of silt, Algala, from the bottom of the Amazon River. I like to learn something new in books I read and found the chapters about this ritual and its beginnings fascinating. Do I know if this really exists? No, but then this story is tagged a fantasy. Regardless, the author has given this part of the tale a plausibility and a sense of possibility bathed in tribal hierarchy, and therefore it plays a major role in our developing story.  Certainly there is factual information mixed with the fantasy.

Shifting back to our two survivors, they have been hospitalized in the same room and under constant surveillance. Emily is the mother of two girls and Dan is the father of two boys. It is decided for the present the four children would be best served by keeping them all together in a foster home while their individual parents either come out of their coma or pass on.

There is so much happening in this book all the way through.  Even with three stories weaving in and out, it keeps the reader riveted.  No one realizes that Emily and Dan are together in their comatose world and are trying to unravel puzzles in order to get back to "save" their children.  There is some mysterious substance found in their blood, unidentified. No one knows if this is compromising or helping their chances of survival. Emily's 16 year old daughter Miranda holds part of the key, but no one is listening to her.

Meanwhile, back in the Amazon jungle, many changes are taking place. The "business" that has been going on undetected for so long is in extreme danger, a type of danger that could mean death to our two unwitting  protagonists, Emily and Dan. The Amazon tribe who have been using Algala for so many generations and whose secrets were used to create this life-giving drug, are all killed.  Suicide bombers seem to be reaching out everywhere, and there is no hint of who is controlling them or who will be the next victim(s).

At the hospital, Emily and Dan appear to be losing their battle, they both seem to go through each step together. With so much going on in the book, it is difficult not to give too much away in a review. The tension which started the story has been building steadily, each bombing bringing a new flood of anticipation and fear to the characters and Ms. Connelly has a knack of transferring that anticipation and tension to her reading audience.  The various threads running through the book create their own kind of tension and bring together all the elements in the end, leaving the reader with a feeling of closure and relief, and yet is it the end? We are left with tantalizing possibilities in the future as the few survivors of the Tokablaki tribe hide in the forests of the Amazon.

This was definitely a thrilling ride for me, with lots to keep me interested quite aside from the mystery and thriller components. A complicated story that's easy to read, a difficult and unique challenge to an author and with Valerie Connelly at the helm, we ride out the tumultuous waves to safe harbor and enjoy the sail.

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