Not Alone
by Gaelyn Whitley Keith
Tate Publishing and Enterprises

"So what is the use of praying now? Clearly God forgot about that or he just isn't listening."

Joseph Moretti's life is exactly the way he wants it. Through hard work, determination, and acts of kindness to others, he has become a successful businessman, bought a beachfront house, married his childhood sweetheart Grace, and raised five children together. Unfortunately for Joe, the more things fill up his life, the less time he has to handle all of them. Unable to complete all of his responsibilities, he begins to let his work life dominate all other things, though he still tries to be a good father and husband. All of these demands do cause Joe to stop being as devout a churchgoer and Christian as he once was, and that creates an opening for Satan to make a move and unravel Joe's entire life.

Offering a sporting contest to the archangels that are locked in constant battle with him, Satan is granted permission to interfere with Joe so long as he does not directly end his life, in order to determine whether or not Joe's soul belongs to God. Dispatching demons to do his work in his home, his office, and seemingly anywhere he could go, Satan's plan is to strike hard and fast to take away the very things Joe holds dear, starting with a two-front attack on his family and his business. Using two Satanist high school dropouts, a house party held by Joe's oldest son turns into the scene of a grizzly mass murder, and all of his children are targeted and killed. Almost simultaneously, a tsunami strikes Japan that causes a shipping boat owned by Joe to run aground and cause massive damage not only to Joe's property but to the nearest city.

All of this leaves Joe with nothing. His business partners no longer trust him, his friends suspect Joe's misfortune is karmic retribution for some wrongdoing, and Grace grows more distant and hostile by the day as she struggles with her grief, eventually threatening to divorce him. All around him, angels and demons are doing battle with one another, but without embracing his faith and turning to it for answers, the demons have carte blanche to do as they please, leaving Joe only to spiral further downward. Joe must realize his only means of salvation before he has nothing left to save.

A new spin on the biblical book of Job, this book brings the stakes of wagering over a soul to their most violent and terrifying extremes. The details of Joe's life coming apart are covered in great depth. As a reader, it can be heartbreaking to see everything taken away from a man who is unaware of any reason why he should be so punished. Parallels to similar Job retellings such as Robert A. Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice are easy to draw, and readers familiar with C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters will find the behind-the-scenes interplay between the angels and demons familiar yet still fresh and interesting.

Perhaps one of the greatest and most fascinating surprises of this book was the amount of action contained within. Despite its zoomed-in focus on Joe and Grace, the movements and deployments of the demons and the observatory defenses of the angels are covered in a fashion one would expect of a military history story. Additionally, nearly every demon is accompanied by a harrowing description of grotesque features and actions designed to complement their respective nefarious specialties. Once the battles begin between the angels and the demons, the action can be quite fast and frenetic as each side seeks to seize the souls of Joe and Grace at all costs.

Though this book is full of religious ideas and Bible verses, it also maintains itself as a strong story of loss and redemption; something enjoyable even for secular audiences. For those that have a religious background or are looking for inspiration however, the key message and resolution of this story should be something that readers can draw strength from. With some surprises, plenty of action, and a strong moral message, readers who are accustomed to sympathizing with protagonists will need little encouragement to see Joseph Moretti's trials to their conclusion.

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