Prolific author Frank Peretti has chosen an intriguing topic for his latest novel, which leans very heavily toward romantic and spiritual topics. The gist of the story lies in addressing a simple but creative question: What would happen if a couple who were truly “meant to be” were separated by death and then thrown back into the mix, this time divided by drastic age differences and dissimilarities in recall? Without remembering a life you’ve shared, would you still fall in love with your spouse? Could you be drawn to that person if they were 40 years older and you still a teenager? Would either one of you be anything like the people you were? Read ILLUSION and imagine it. And then imagine how it might be possible without the whole “dirty old man thing” getting in the way.
"ILLUSION is a touching love story with some creative, purist twists. It is a chaste inspirational with many magic acts and stage experiences appearing throughout the book, which are really quite wondrous and reveal tricks of the trade as well as some mysteries surrounding truly great performances."
Now, for the sake of readers, I should explain that Peretti gets somewhat dramatic about the initial death, but then spends little time agonizing over it. The real story is about the aftermath, with the poor woman’s husband, Dane, being forced to live but feeling he can’t. He had planned to start his retired life alongside Mandy but leaves the hospital alone, moving into the farmhouse in Idaho near where his wife grew up. He’s deeply mourning, of course, and unable to move forward. He feels robbed, but then gets to meet Mandy in the flesh once again and begins to question exactly what could have happened when he recognizes her.
On Mandy’s end, after death, she awakens at age 18 in a hospital gown, alone and confused, not remembering anything from her past adult life. She’s spotted by a concerned citizen who takes her to the hospital, but she believes she’s on a timeline somewhere in the ‘70s. Of course, Mandy is devastated to hear that it’s the 21st century and she may be crazy. Her parents are dead. She is able to leave the hospital but knows she cannot keep her identity, which includes not just her name but also cherished memories and details of her childhood --- the things that make her who she is.
Adopting the alias of Eloise Kramer, Mandy attempts to support herself while staying in a halfway house in some Idaho town. She cannot find work as she lacks a social security number and driver’s license, and so she takes to working the streets as a magic performer. It is here, dressed up as a gypsy and performing for meager change, that she first meets Dane once again. The man feels sorry for her but doesn’t quite recognize her in full costume. Still, he decides to help her because he is a good man and he pities her.
Eventually, Mandy becomes Dane’s apprentice and begins receiving professional-grade training as a magician. And, of course, Dane knows full well who she is by this time. In Mandy, he sees a natural performer and his loving wife. But he’s unable to work out precisely what to do about it or how she’s able to do some unearthly things she manages to carry off during performances. Mandy rises to stardom under Dane’s professional and personal tutelage, seeing Dane as a familiar father figure who gives her a feeling of home, a very distinct sense of déjà vu. But Mandy doesn’t really remember him, and magic becomes the main impetus for drawing them together and bringing out the best in both of them. Magic, in fact, is the charming central metaphor in the book for life and love.
ILLUSION is a touching love story with some creative, purist twists. It is a chaste inspirational with many magic acts and stage experiences appearing throughout the book, which are really quite wondrous and reveal tricks of the trade as well as some mysteries surrounding truly great performances. Skeptics can enjoy a little dose of reality here and there too, as the central scenario does seem a little too surreal to accept without suspending disbelief at first, but plausible scientific explanations arise for everything that happens. ILLUSION is a sweet love story and an engaging novel that should appeal highly to readers of inspirational romance.
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on March 8, 2012