Something That Lasts
Author: James David Jordan
Publisher: Integrity Publishers
Reverend David Parst has it all: a devoted wife, a loving son, a successful church and community esteem. But all is not enough for David – he wants more. Rather than getting what he wants, however, David loses everything when a member of the congregation reveals David’s adulterous affair with his wife, then commits suicide on the church steps.
David’s adultery shatters his family. David moves south while his wife and son, Sarah and Jack, move north. David eventually constructs a cordial long-distance relationship with Sarah. His bond with Jack, however, remains broken for thirty years. In the meantime, David’s only connection to Jack comes when he skulks in the stands to watch his son play baseball. David and Jack finally reconnect, tenuously, when David is on the brink of death and Jack’s marriage is on the verge of collapse. Shortly before David dies, Jack gains the strength, wisdom and faith, most of it imparted by his long-estranged father, to pick up the pieces of his own marriage and avoid repeating the errors committed by his father. Thus, the book closes with David’s failure being redeemed by his son’s renewed commitment to his family.
In his debut novel, James David Jordan poignantly conveys that adultery never involves just two people. In this case, one disastrous affair resulted in two destroyed marriages, a tragic death and the long-term impairment of family relationships.
The story is well paced and the characters are compelling. They are not perfect but they are basically good people trying to live good, honest lives. Several of them are sincerely religious but they are neither fanatical nor stereotypical. The reader can’t resist hoping that all of them will find happiness and success in their lives.
Mr. Jordan does a good job exploring the complexities of David’s relationship with Jack. Jack’s rejection of his father is plausible, as is David’s desire to reconnect with his son. One cannot help pitying David as he hides in the stands, aching to let Jack know he’s there. The notion that it could take thirty years to rebuild their connection is not far-fetched. Some severed relationships take even longer to rebuild. And sadly, some severed relationships never rebuild. In this case, the relationship is restored but fragile when David dies.
Mr. Jordan’s handling of David and Sarah’s relationship is less convincing. Their first encounter after the affair’s disclosure is powerful. David is repentant. Sarah is angry. Not only is she angry, she is thoroughly repulsed by David, so much so that she cannot tolerate the feel of his hand on her shoulder. The next time David and Sarah interact, however, they have reached a rather amicable relationship. The reader cannot help wondering how the relationship progressed, magically it seems, from revulsion to amiability. Throughout the book there is very little interaction between these two. The relationship frequently is portrayed through third-person accounts rather than actual dialogue between the two characters. Even though David is estranged from Jack throughout most of the book, there is actually far more dialogue between them in the last few months of David’s life than there is between David and Sarah over a thirty-year span.
Mr. Jordan’s apparent desire to explore the complexities of strained or broken father-son relationships is admirable. Heaven knows it’s certainly a topic that needs sensitive examination. In a book in which the act of adultery sets the story’s central background, however, it seems reasonable to expect more examination of the marital relationship than is undertaken here. David and Sarah’s relationship raises many questions and leaves them unanswered. Mr. Jordan’s failure to explore these questions is the book’s greatest weakness.
I highly recommend Something That Lasts to readers who are interested in topics related to family life, particularly the topic of fatherhood. Readers interested in Christian literature that avoids cliché characters will find this book refreshing and inspiring. Be forewarned: the story is incredibly moving; keep a box of tissues handy.