I am so excited that I am able to be a part of Waterbrook Multnomah's "Blogging for Books". I love to read and to have a chance to review books is wonderful! I was given a complimentary copy of Tandem in exchange for agreeing to post a review. Even though I did not particularly enjoy this title I look forward to my next selection.
There are two things I expect from Christian fiction: First, it should strengthen and encourage my faith in the Lord; second, it should be so well written that I can share it with an unbeliever having full confidence that it will be so compelling that they will willing read it. Then, through the powerful prose they can be exposed to the Gospel. These are high standards that few books I have read achieve. So I usually settle for one or the other: an entertaining storyline with few references to the faith, or a heavily "Christian" book that has a sparse plot. Sometimes, I am fortunate to find both.
That was not the case with Tracey Bateman's Tandem. This book did not deliver on either standard. It has a strange disjointed plot about two women: an unbelieving one whose father has Alzheimer's and one who is a vampire from the Civil War era. Sound bizarre? It is! The whole story line feels forced-there are parts that keep you guessing, but mostly I just kept pushing from page to page hoping to figure out what really tied these two women together.
Lauryn, who father suffers from quickly progressing Alzheimer's, discovers personal letters written by Amede (the vampire) while preparing an estate for auction. She sends the letters to Amede. Amede believes the letters may be a clue to aid her in the search for her long-lost sister and decides to travel to Abbey Hills, Lauryn's hometown, to further investigate. Once Amede arrives, inexplicable murders start occurring.
The book follows Lauryn most closely. You want to empathize with her difficult life (she lost her mother at a young age, her romantic interest moved away, her father is failing quickly) but it is too hard. She doesn't make herself likable, and you really don't make any personal investment in her. She refuses to trust God, despite her long-time attraction to Billy, the pastor's son. When Billy returns to Abbey Hills, after years in the mission field, I thought the book would begin to move in a more spiritual direction. Instead, it just hints around at spiritual things without ever doing more than make the barest scratches on the surface of true faith.
I also thought Ms. Bateman could have used the story of Amede, the vampire, to delve more deeply into thoughts on redemption. Amede was a southern belle whose family is linked to women intensely involved in the voodoo rituals of New Orleans.There are hints that voodoo and vampirism are connected but this is never fully explored. These are not your typical vampires- they drink blood, live eternally and have somewhat greater than human strength, but are otherwise "normal". During Amede's search for her sister in Abbey Hills, she winds up being accused of the strange murders that keep happening. Instead of allowing either woman's search to lead her to the Truth, the book closes with both women essentially where they began: living somewhat parallel lives (mostly friendless, failing fathers- Amede's died of a wasting disease also, and with precious little to make their lives meaningful), both unwilling to relinquish control for fear of being betrayed. They both make the smallest hints that they may turn to God, but it is more a realization that "God is all around us" than true life-changing relationships.
This could have been a very entertaining book. Vampires are all the rage right now and having a solid Christian title as part of this genre would have been valuable. However, Ms. Bateman does not weave her story tightly-I was left with several questions at the end. After a bizarre plot twist in the last pages of the book, you are left scratching your head, wondering how this could be different. I know this is a companion book to Thirsty also by Tracey Bateman. Perhaps that has some of the pieces I am missing. This book was a quick read, and the concept of Christian vampire books is intriguing to me. Perhaps this will lead to better things in the future.