On the fourth night of their Hawaiian honeymoon, the phone rang in the dead of the night startling Peter and Gwen out of their sleep. Peter untangled Gwen where she had been sleeping in his arms and glanced at the clock. It was 4:30 a.m.
It’s Sally. She says nothing is wrong, but that Professor French tracked her down at home to tell her that the Supreme Court had ruled on their case—but that he wouldn’t tell her how it had ruled. Peter works out that it’s 9:30 a.m. in Washington, D.C. Look, I get being excited, but he didn’t just wake Peter in the middle of the night on his honeymoon in Hawaii, he also somehow found Peter’s secretary’s home phone number and called her there—for a non-emergency. Could this not have waited a few short hours?
Peter writes down Professor French’s number and calls him.
“We’re dying. What happened?”
“Five to four. The vote was five to four.”
“Which way? Did we win?”
“Peter, most lawyers never get to even argue a case in the Supreme Court; you should be proud of what you have already done.”
“We lost, didn’t we?” Peter asked, his heart falling to the floor.
“No, you impatient whippersnapper,” he said with a jovial laugh. “You won> I was just trying to give you some perspective on how important this really is.”
That’s right, Professor French is one of those people.
“We won!” Peter screamed. “We won!”
The professor heard the phone hit the bedside table and fall to the floor. laughing (sic) and shouting blared through the phone. The professor waited patiently and smiled.
Fifteen seconds later, Peter picked up the phone again. “Sorry, professor. We just got carried away.”
Anyway, Professor French says the Court ruled the search unconstitutional, and that CPS could be sued for the false information they used when they filed the case, and for the document tampering. Peter declares it “a miracle from God.” Because of course he does.
Gwen wonders if it’s on the news. They turn on CNN.
They didn’t have to wait long. The second story began with a graphic of the Supreme Court building. Their case was the lead decision of the day. The reporter on the scene gave a quick report of the vote and its meaning.
“And for a comment from one of the participants, we go to our live camera in Kansas City.”
A beaming David Humphrey suddenly appeared on their screen.
“What?” they cried out in unison.
“We here at Heart of America are very grateful for this landmark decision from the Supreme Court. Our organization was the sponsor of this important case, and we look forward to taking other cases to the high court to protect American families and American freedoms. If anyone would like to join Heart of America, our 800 number is—”
“Oh, pleeese!” Gwen yelped, throwing the remote control device at the image of David G. Humphrey. The TV clicked off when the control hit the floor.
Then Peter says he’d rather have Gwen than any five-to-four Supreme Court victor, and Gwen smiles, and then Peter says it might be different if it were an eight-to-one or seven-to-two decision.
Gwen hit him with a pillow as they laughed and tumbled back into each other’s willing arms.
No really, that’s it. The end.
There’s no indication that Peter is going to do anything to expose Humphrey. Frankly, his willingness to turn the financial documents Cindy gave him over to a Heart of America board member he’d just met reveals buckets about how evangelicals deal with abuses of power. Things are best handled in house. I’m sure they’ll sort it out themselves. Why expose the church to scandal by going public with it? And here is Humphrey, continuing to scam people. Fun.
Guess who else never got reported? Scumbag lawyer dude. Oh no I don’t mean Peter, I mean Bill Walinski, though I suppose that’s a bit ambiguous without clarification. Peter’s blasé attitude toward reporting Walinski’s actions and the ease with which he apparently forgot all about it suggests that Farris does not take things like sexual harassment and sexual extortion that seriously at all. Once again, he flouts the very system set up to catch and prevent abuse.
Oh and by the way, it has now been one year in-world since the beginning of this book. One year. In one year, Peter took a case from scratch all the way to the Supreme Court and received a decision. Within that same year, Gordon died and Gwen met Peter, sort of dated him, became engaged to him, and finally married him—all in a year’s time. That’s some breakneck speed right there.
When I began this review series I thought we’d be focusing primarily on competing ideas about the function of child protective services. That didn’t end up being the case. The social workers and their supervisor were complete cartoons, engaging in such rampant bribery, tampering, and arson that they were hard to take seriously. Meanwhile Peter, our protagonist, crossed all manner of ethical lines—remember when he told Walinski he would report Walinski’s harassment of Gwen unless he turned over Gwen’s case documents without Gwen’s explicit authorization as required by law? And then there was the way he treated Gwen—my god.
Peter does not come across as a sympathetic or positive character—at all. He’s self-absorbed, he still doesn’t understand why it was wrong for him to come on to Gwen what he was her lawyer, and his religious beliefs made him wish Gwen’s ex-husband dead—a wish that ultimately was fulfilled, leaving young Casey without her father. As for Gwen, her conversion to Peter’s church comes across almost as tragic. Did she dump her previous friends, or did she never have any before? How sad is that? And those who’ve suggested that Gwen’s going to have to leave her job and become a stay-at-home mom now—you’re right, that’s what happens.
No secular person is going to read this book and come away seeing evangelical Christianity a la Farris’ portrayal at all attractive. But then, this book wasn’t written for a secular audience—it was written for other evangelical Christians, who will believe that the bizarre behavior of the social workers represents reality, not notice Peter’s ethical lapses, and assume that Walinisky and Humphrey got their deserts without being reported for their crimes. And that, perhaps, is what makes this book a tragedy.
Stay tuned later today for a post listing options for future review series!
I have a Patreon! Please support my writing!