We see it on signs at special events, on t-shirts, posters and, of course, amidst the precious verses of the Bible’s Book of John. JOHN 3:16 is both the key to Christianity and the title of this captivating novel. The meaning of the verse’s powerful words open the hearts and minds of author Nancy Moser’s full-bodied characters, each broken in his or her own way, and lead them to a life of “more.” But not until they come face to face with their sins and the consequences of their actions. In the process, some discover that their desperate needs pale in comparison to the need for salvation. Those already saved figure out there is a far better alternative to stumbling through life on their own.
Roman Paulson is appalled to discover that his college football son has been involved with a church, even after Roman explicitly told him to stay away from that bunk. After all, he doesn’t need irrational religious beliefs distracting him from what’s really important --- football. Maya Morano desperately longs for a baby, so much so that she’s driven to make enough money for another infertility treatment procedure, no matter what it takes. Velvet Cotton is stuck in a dead-end job and a loveless life, her self-imposed punishment for the baby she gave up over 20 years ago and a subsequent series of sins. Little does she know that she is about to come face to face with her past in ways she never imagined. Peter McLean is torn between his Christian, farm-life roots and the girlfriend who tempts him away. Lianne Skala is that girlfriend. Bold, brassy and sexy, she blames God for the pain she keeps locked away like buried treasure. But... someone holds the key.
Though five different personalities tell the story of JOHN 3:16, their intertwining lives are easy to follow without losing track of who’s who. As a reader who sometimes gets confused by too many characters, I appreciated the author’s ability to seamlessly weave five tales together without complication. Never once did I have to flip back to figure out the relationships among characters, nor did the connections seem forced. Maya works for Roman until she gets fired for unethical behavior. Velvet is both Roman’s friend and Lianne’s boss, but discovers she is so much more. Peter is Lianne’s boyfriend, as well as the college roommate of Roman’s son, William.
Directly or indirectly, all have a plausible tie to William, whose tragedy early in the book brings them closer to each other. As they muddle through their grief, each is touched by William’s favorite Bible verse, John 3:16. But for Roman, whose anger toward God was fueled first by the death of his wife, then reignited by his son’s death, that touch is pushed away again and again until a powerful moment of truth melts a hardened heart. Armed with newfound faith, he courageously displays that faith at a football game. A simple act, yet powerful enough to change lives.
Nancy Moser’s multi-faceted characters vibrantly come to life in JOHN 3:16 soon after they are introduced. Their struggles, aches, secrets and tendency toward bad choices will strike a familiar chord with readers. Likewise, their inclination to turn a blind eye and ear when God’s way isn’t their way will also ring true for many who read this book.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on November 13, 2011