WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers
Type: Christian Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Basic Plot: Grace Moore and Roman Velasco both feel like they are at low points in their life. One has just left an abusive marriage with her child, and the other can’t seem to get out of a slump, no matter how much hedonistic behavior he indulges in. Perhaps God can heal the wounds of both in the most unexpected ways.
Plot: 3/5 Average: The plot and characters were both fraught with cliché. A good girl and bad boy fall in love. A secretary finds love with her boss. There is a love rival that is more gentlemanly than the other candidate but in the end does not end up with the girl. The plot progresses in a cliché manner as well, such as denying one likes their love interest and feeling the inner struggle between the good and bad boy. The plot twists were a bit predictable, but there were a few unexpected ones. Despite the cheesy romance and predictable plot, the book was still a good read because of the style and set up.
Writing Style and Setup: 4/5 Well Done: While the story was cliché, the delivery of it made it a pleasant read. I have read many an interesting plot with such poor delivery that the plot was sucked dry and made boring. This book was in many ways the opposite. The plot was cliché, but the pacing and character delivery was made colorful and suspenseful, with believable scenes and flashbacks spaced to give suspense. While at times a bit too raw, the story was much better delivered than most Christian fiction I have read.
Moral: 3/5 Mostly Good Morals: Francine Rivers puts a lot of emphasis on dependence on God and following His will, as oppose to putting faith in man made relationships and romance. This is a good change from some other Christian fiction romance novels that are out there. It does talk a little about falling ones emotions and heart but did a lot less so than I expected. It also does have a very strong forgive message, which is good, but some people may think the tolerance and forgiveness were taken a little too far. Despite this, characters do face consequences for making bad choices concerning marriage and clubbing.
Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: The story is much better than a lot of Christian fiction I have read, but the story itself is still cliché at times. The delivery of the story really saves it. I have read stories with unique plots that were butchered by the delivery. This story was the other way around, a common story with an excellent delivery.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 3½/5 Frequent Mentions of Sex and Sexual Content: A man pressures a Christian woman into having sex with him after they make out because he is “turned on,” and the scene kind of sounds like a rape scene the way she doesn’t agree to it but doesn’t think enough to stop him either. Main characters (who are Christian) are mentioned to think and feel quite sensual things about each other (such as wanting to nuzzle a girl’s neck), noticing how nice the other person looks or moves, sometimes noting that they see a character’s bare skin and how a woman’s chest looks like a baby’s bottom. A woman walks in on her husband and another woman “neither wearing much of anything,” and another man is briefly mentioned to have been caught in adultery. Unmarried and married characters kiss throughout the book, and the emotions and sensual feelings the kisses produce are described. Unmarried characters hold hands and sit in each others laps throughout the book. A man says he can tell a girl has never kissed another man because she keeps her mouth closed and offers to “teach” her “a few things,” though she refuses. Main and side characters have children from adultery, fornication, and prostitution, though this is always portrayed negatively. It is mentioned that a man added a phallus into one of his works of art. A man helps his employee buy a one piece swimming suit, and they swim together at a hotel pool. When she is embarrassed, he tells her not to be because “it’s not lingerie.” He suggests they play Marco Polo, but she refuses. There is a mention that women were dressed immodestly and men are shirtless. After getting newly saved, a man offers to live with a woman he likes, but she refuses and he has a change of heart. A man knows he “would have… seduce[d] her” except she moved. It mentions a Christian girl does live with her boyfriend but that she is not happy. A character once had a habit of having sex with random people from clubs, and he is mentioned to do this at least once in the story, though it is not described. Women make suggestive offers to men, and a man thinks that a girl would not have “sex with a stranger.” Innuendos towards sex are made, and a man once says he was not trying to make one. A main characters mother was a prostitute, and the boy remembers hearing things from her room. There is mention of a woman dancing provocatively and putting money in her g-sting, and that other dancing people looked like “they were having sex standing up and fully clothed.” It is mentioned that a married man “was more interested in having sex than” studying. A girl asks her Christian friend if she has “had sex yet” with her boyfriend, which she hasn’t. A teenager mocks a man for waiting until marriage to have sex, though what he said is not said. A man wonders if a girl had sex with a youth pastor she is dating before wondering if that is even “allowed.” A man is mentioned to have had sex with and dumped two girls, once describing it as “all the way.” “Makeout artist” and “kiss-and-tell” are used to describe what a boy is not. A woman blushes several times for many reasons, sometimes sexual and/or romantic reasons. A man says one of the reasons he is leaving his wife is because “she [doesn’t] like sex.” There is a reference once to a “man’s needs.” One of the people in a man’s work of a art was “the girl who introduced him to sex.” A mans tells a boy not to date a girl just for sex. A man says a secretary “thought” he wanted a “nude model.” A married man says he flirted with a person he is not married to, and his wife once briefly thinks how he loved “other women.” A rope hurts a man’s groin. Dogs sniff at a boy’s “private places.” A man drew a picture of a naked woman’s back. A man touches his wife’s thigh, and the author hints that the “fire” was still going. A man once hopes to find a “hot, willing girl.” A man asks if a woman was raped; she wasn’t. It is mentioned that a town had prostitutes at one point. A man makes a joke about a woman knocking to insure a man is wearing pants when she enters. A man is said to have “a reputation as a player.” A man asks why a man moved from a beach that had women in bikinis. It mentions that a character mooned another one. A woman breast feeds her child, though little detail is given. It is briefly mentioned that a boy has “two girls hanging on his arms.” A man wonders what a girl’s boyfriend would do if he suddenly kissed her in front of him. Teenage boys have a crush on married woman. “Prostitute” is used for descriptive purposes. A man once thinks of his father as a “sperm donor” and his mother as a “whore.” A girl calls her boss a “Peeping Tom” because he watched her kiss a man.
A boy threw dog poop into a hot tub.
Violence: 3/5 Domestic Abuse and Suicide: A man is strongly hinted to have accidentally killed his wife, and he commits suicide by a gun. A woman said her dad kicked her mom in the ribs once and regularly beat her. A man is mentioned to have thrown a little boy and kicked a woman, though she tries to defend her son by jumping on the man. A man slaps a boy, and he bites him. A demon claws a man’s leg and greatly hurts it. It is mentioned that a woman stabbed her husband. A boy recalls hitting a man, and it is hinted dogs attacked him. It mentions that characters got in fights. A baby punches at a man.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 2/5 Light Cursing and Frequent Mentions of Swearing: “Ass” and “hell” are each misused once, the former by a Christian. A man says “bull” once. “Bastard” is properly used once. It is mentioned quite a bit that characters, sometimes even Christian ones, let out “four lettered words” and “curse.” Though the exact words are never said, it is clear sometimes what he said, such as “he told [him] what he could do to himself” or “where she could shove [it].” It is mentioned that a boy heard Jesus’ name misused. “Gee” is said once. A woman asks a man to not swear.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 4/5 Intense and Disturbing Content: Main characters’ traumatic childhoods that include death, abandonment, prostitution, and suicide are recounted in graphic detail. A main character goes to hell, where he sees terrifying demons, hears people screaming, feels burning, and is threatened by demons, though what they say is not said. A character commits suicide after committing manslaughter. Characters frequently have a dead spouse or parents. Characters cry a lot from several things, such as emotional trauma and death. A main character dies from a heart attack. Women are mentioned to have died from car accidents (while pregnant), drug overdose, and cancer. A girl says her father once broke her arm and bruised her when she was a little girl, but she told people she fell out of a tree. A boy threw a can at another boy, causing the latter to fall and die, as well as get run over by a car.A woman said her father “almost killed” her, though how is not said, and she says her abusive father convinced her mother she deserved to be beaten. It is mentioned some boys were shot to death. A boy is hit by and flies over a car, and a man asks if he broke anything. A man remembers there being shootings on his street when he was a child. A baby is mentioned to have dies from a lack of oxygen. He didn’t. A woman tells her son that her father beat her because she was bad. A boy says dogs knocked him over. A man once thinks a girl will slap him, but she does not. A teenager boy is known to have murdered a man and is called the “Reaper.” A boy is said to literally have a “death wish.” A list of angry outbursts a boy is given, including setting a building on fire. A woman recounts how a man intimidated her and was on the verge of hitting her. A boy once wants to draw screaming faces; he doesn’t. A man tells his wife to “have an abortion,” though she doesn’t and miscarries on accident instead. He celebrates. A woman suggests her friend get an abortion. A boy asks a man if he would make his dogs attack him; he wouldn’t. Sodom and Gomorrah being burned is mentioned. There is a painting of a man being attacked by birds. A baby falls and starts crying. A boy is mentioned to have once fallen off a roof. Characters joke about blood. It mentions a woman uses make up “to cover bruises.” A crucifix is described. A boy assures another he had not “killed anyone yet.” Characters get blisters, scrapes, earaches, fevers, and headaches. A baby getting fevers from shots are mentioned once. It is mentioned that a man had colon cancer. In a mural a lion is eating a giraffe. A boy draws people throwing up people through doors and cooked rats. A man buries his mothers ashes. Dogs are mentioned to have died. Characters feel pain in various places. Dementia is mentioned once. A girl talks about “what if” scenarios that include death and diseases. A woman throws up from drunkenness. A woman believes a boy will eventually kill someone; he doesn’t. A man thinks how his friend had no obituary. A man notices how another man could attack him and defend himself from “a blow.” “Civil war weaponry” is briefly mentioned, and the Civil War is mentioned once taught on in class. Post-WWII is mentioned once for descriptive purposes. A woman says she went to a Civil War reenactment and saw people pretend to die and scream. A boys decide to join the army and the Marine Corps. “Kick,” “slap,” “foot in a trap,” “kill,” “eat,” “punch,” and “war” used for descriptive purposes. “Want to cut out your heart with a shiv,” “rip head off,” “punched in the stomach,” and “cut out heart” are used for descriptive purposes.
Religious Issues: 2/5 Mention of Other Religions and Anti-God Characters: A main character receives a divine visit from Jesus Christ as a child. A main character mocks God and Christianity before he is converted, saying that heaven and hell are on earth, asks why people “believe in a god they can’t see,”and that if Jesus could “save himself” He could not save others. He wonders if God is even real and calls Him a sadist. A man draws a picture of a priest taking money from a woman. A man sees Catholic women kneeling and praying the rosary in front of a crucifix, and that afterwards they seem peaceful. A character goes to the Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel. God is written “god” when nonbelievers refer to Him. Cupid and nymphs are mentioned, sometimes in works of art. A character says they heard about people’s accounts of returning from heaven. It is briefly mentioned that a minor character’s spouse was once a “member of a Masonic lodge.” An Arabic man is hinted to be Muslim. A famous quote a child made about a worldly town was “Goodbye, God. We’re moving to Bodie.” A woman wonders if a man is either an atheist or an agnostic. A girl thinks how she is so desperate that she would work for the devil. A woman thinks that dancers looked like “pagans.” There is mention of a space alien museum. A boy draws a devil. The characters visit a “ghost town.” “Alien planet,” “ghost,” “Greek god,” “talisman,” “nun,” and “haunting” are used for descriptive purposes. A man wonders if a woman has become his idol.
In the opening, emotionally broken children, crisis pregnancy centers, and dealing with “heart attacks, heart surgery, and defibrillator implants” are all mentioned.
Magic: ½/5 Brief Mention: There is a mountain named Magic Mountain. No magic is done in the book.
Others: A man divorces the protagonist and she remarries. Characters are mentioned to have taken drugs and gotten high. and meth, pot, and heroine. A character asks another if he deals dope; he doesn’t. It is mentioned that a boy avoids drug trafficking. Characters drink and/or serve brandy, champagne, scotch, sloe gin fizz, and wine, sometimes as Christians. Beer is mentioned. A boy looks for his mom in a liquor store. A man is once partially drunk, and drunkenness is mentioned in speech. A school is called a “party school.” Characters listen to Christian contemporary music and rock music is played in church. There are mentions of praise bands and guitarists, and blues and metal music are also mentioned or listened to. A Christian uses Elvis’s “Boss Man” song as her ringtone. Characters are mentioned to have gone to nightclubs and think how others probably did not, one scene being a descriptive flashback and another having the characters go to one to help somebody. Karaoke bars and dancing are mentioned and the latter is done, once in the style of hip hop. A character is mentioned to smoke a pipe. Tobacco is mentioned once. A man mentions meeting Christians at nightclubs. A boy assures another that he is not gay. It is mentioned that a town had saloons and gamblers. A man has a tattoo, and another character notices a girl does not have tattoos, calling “tats.” A briefly mentioned boy has an ear piercing and a briefly mentioned girl multiple lip, nose, and ear piercings. It is joked that a dog has a crush on a human. “Ballet” and “tango” are used for descriptive purposes. “Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent” (DC super heroes), the Lone Ranger, and Disney’s The Little Mermaid are mentioned. A Death in the Family, My Antonia, and Catch-22 are all mentioned.
Overall: 4/5 Adult Appropriate: The main problems with the book are sexual and emotional. Anything that had to do with sex without anyone actually having it, was done, and even then, Christian and non-Christian characters are mentioned to have had sex, though always in the past and with regret. The book also deals with physical abuse and growing up in frightening, harsh environments that not everyone would feel comfortable reading about. I do not recommend this book for anyone under eighteen, though some adults may want to forego it as well.