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Peretti Out-Grishams Grisham

God and the Devil in the summer blockbusters.
1999This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

Strange things are happening in Antioch, Washington. A crucifix weeps, the crippled are made whole, and Jesus has appeared on the outskirts of town. A heroic Pentecostal pastor fights demons and rescues the heroine-in-peril in a heart-stopping final confrontation.

Meanwhile, a less supernatural scenario unfolds on the opposite coast. Eccentric billionaire Troy Phelan leaves his entire fortune to his illegitimate daughter, Rachel Lane, and then throws himself out of a window—much to the dismay of his lawyers, his three ex-wives, his six legitimate children, and a greedy flock of grandchildren. Rachel Lane is unaware of her good luck; she's teaching the Bible to Stone Age Indians, and Nate O'Riley (lawyer, alcoholic, womanizer) sets off into the Brazilian jungle to find her.

Millions of readers have already visited Antioch and Brazil, led there (respectively) by Frank Peretti's new novel The Visitation and John Grisham's most recent bestseller, The Testament. Until now, Grisham has written earthy books, in which characters are too busy extricating themselves from man-made messes to pay much attention to the spiritual realm; in Peretti's novels, the real conflict is always in heaven, not on earth. Peretti's heroes have typically been larger-than-life prophets of God, while Grisham's heroes are sometimes not much better than the villains. Peretti sells at Heaven and Earth; Grisham, at Barnes & Noble.

But these new novels show an unexpected reversal of perspective. Peretti's The Visitation is narrated by Travis Jordan, a disaffected Pentecostal pastor who is fed up with miraculous healings and words of knowledge; Grisham's The Testament stars a selfless missionary and a holy small-town priest. The Visitation has a table of ...

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