Friday, May 2, 2014

Water Walker

Water Walker, by Ted Dekker, is the sequel to Eyes Wide Open in the Outlaw Chronicles. Like Eyes Wide OpenWater Walker was released episodically in four parts before the paperback became available. Since I knew I was going to own the book anyway, I waited to read it. Technically, you can read the book by itself, but if you want to read everything that relates to it, you have to go all the way back to books like Showdown and Black. And you'll want to take a look at Outlaw, another "stand-alone" book that sort of kick-started the Outlaw Chronicles. As usual, everything in the Dekker-verse connects. Having read Dekker's other books, it's so interesting to see all the connections, to know Alice's history even though she doesn't. But it doesn't really affect this book at all because Alice narrates most of the book, and what she doesn't know doesn't matter to the story. One thing that differentiates the Outlaw Chronicles from the majority of Dekker's books is that they are targeted to the young adult audience, but aside from teenage protagonists, Dekker's style remains pretty much the same, which is to say highly readable, suspenseful, emotionally engaging, and thought-provoking.

In Water Walker, Alice begins as a thirteen-year-old who remembers only the past six months of her life when she is kidnapped by a man who says he knows her real mother. It might be spoiling to say any more, but I feel like I have to dangle another little tidbit out there. (You've been warned.) Alice soon finds herself immersed in a world of rules and religion, essentially what we might view as a cult, though Alice is too unfamiliar with the world as a whole to recognize it as such. And Alice soon becomes Eden. There's a lot more there, but it would be spoiling to say more.

All the Outlaw Chronicles books have a lot to do with identity. This one links identity with forgiveness, and the message is mind-shattering, though it's not the first time we've seen it in Dekker's books. Outlaw, particularly, goes into a lot of detail on this. One of the things said in Water Walker that especially strikes me and fills me with wonder is that true forgiveness believes there is no offense. Nothing wrong has been done; therefore, there is nothing to take offense at. It's both complicated and simple. It's so hard to grasp in practice, but the idea itself is so elegantly simple. Dekker explains it beautifully and clearly in a way I can't. For instance, one character says, "You will live in terrible suffering, all because you can't bring yourself to let go of your offense." It has a lot to do with water walking, with letting go and trusting in something beyond what our human minds can understand. And this message is so powerful because it is true.

Though part suspenseful thriller (less so than Dekker's hardcore thrillers), much of the journey is spiritual, obviously. The physical circumstances are impossible to overcome until the spiritual ones have been dealt with, and even then, the physical isn't resolved in a matter that one would expect. I love how originally Dekker's books illustrate that "God's ways are not our ways." I guess you could say that these young adult books are tamer than Dekker's usual thrillers in that he doesn't explore pure evil to the same extent (there's evil, yes, but the face of it is not quite as stark). On the other hand, I think these books go deeper thematically. You never forget that there's a purpose behind the story. So, does that lessen the impact of the storytelling, to be a step removed from the action? Is it less entertaining and immersive? It kind of depends on your viewpoint. I'll admit, some of Dekker's books have been more exciting to me, harder to put down. But I'm not sure I got as much out of those books as I do out of these. And really, either way, Dekker doesn't write a boring story. After reading so many of his mainstream, almost "secular" novels, I appreciate the turn his writing and ideas have taken now. For sure, he isn't in a rut, and he always has something new to offer.

I'm excited to read a book of his coming out in October, the story of Jesus from the perspective of a woman of that time. But before A.D. 30 takes us into the life of Jesus, the third book in the Outlaw Chronicles, Hacker, is available June 10.

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