The Vision, pp. 271-285
This section is a doozy. Remember, Magdalene’s father—Mr. Giles—has staked out Omar’s house, where Magdalene is babysitting Omar’s four children. We’ve been told that he plans on setting a fire. Also, he has chloroform. For what, it’s somewhat unclear. But he has it!
So there’s that.
Giles’ van was parked as close to the house as possible without being noticeable. He climbed into the back and set up the military listening device he had purchased through the Brotherhood.
He would listen for a while and then call Magdalene from his cell phone, using the number his contact had supplied him. She might be suspicious, but she would come to the door to speak to him. That’s when he would grab her.
This plan makes no sense. He doesn’t even need to grab her, she told him she’d go home with him. Also, I don’t think listening devices work if you don’t first put some sort of bug in the place you’re listening in on, and Magdalene’s father hasn’t done that—he arrived at the house after Omar and Magdalene.
The Prattle of Little Children
With his listening device, Magdalene’s father can hear every word she and the children speak while she’s babysitting them. He can hear the children sing Jesus Loves Me, and he can hear them chant for ice cream. He hears Magdalene read to them from the God’s Story graphic novel Bible.
Magdalene’s father hears Magdalene read “suffer the little children to come onto me,” and he hears the kids discuss why the text uses the word “suffer.” The answer is that the text was translated into English four hundred years ago and our word use has changed, but one of Tess and Omar’s kids says it’s because “kids get on people’s nerves when they fidget or have to go to the bathroom.”
Listening to all of this has Magdalene’s father remembering times when she was this little. And that has him feeling a bit guilty about his actions now. But he shakes it off.
After she tucks them into bed, the kids ask Magdalene to tell them the story of how their dad found her at the side of the road. So she does, and of course, Magdalene’s dad hears every bit of it from his van.
She tells them that their dad was scared.
“He was so scared he almost didn’t help me, but he knew God loved me and wanted someone to help.”
In the back of the van Mr. Giles hunched over, studying his hands. He was scared, was he?
Little Tina spoke up a little skeptical. “Why was Daddy scared? Did you have a gun?”
Magdalene’s laughter sounded like tinkling rain. “No, you silly bug! I didn’t have a gun!”
Her voice seemed so close, he felt it as if he could reach out and smooth her silky white blond hair. Unconsciously he held out his hand as if caressing her head while he whispered, “That’s what I used to call you—silly bug. You were my pride and joy, and my silly bug. Oh, Maggie, why this family? Why this family?”
This is so very very weird.
“Sweetie, your daddy is the bravest man in the whole world. You don’t understand, but your daddy knew that if he helped me someone might get the wrong idea and maybe hurt somebody he loves. That’s why he was afraid.”
“Like me?” Tina’s sweet little voice sounded pleased with her newfound understanding. “Hurt somebody like me? Cause my daddy loves me very, very much.”
Mr. Giles heard his daughter’s voice break with a sob as she tried to answer. Then, much to his surprise, he felt hot tears trickling down his own face. How could he be crying? He roughly wiped them away.
It was as if he saw himself in a dream, sitting in the stuffy truck. “Dear God, what have I done? What have I become?”
Okay but for real, how is Magdalene’s father listening in on every word spoken in that house? His car is even out of view for crying out loud.
Finally, Magdalene leaves the children to sleep, and goes to comfort the baby. Her father, having spent three hours listening to the children’s happy play and conversation, is overcome with emotion. He thinks about when his kids were little, and happy and prattling on like this, before the happiness went out of his family. He sits in his car crying, asking himself what he’s done, what he’s become.
It was always going to end this way. It also makes no sense. If it were this easy to make an abuser confront the harm he’s caused and transform his life, we wouldn’t have nearly as many abusers.
It’s not this easy. Outside of Debi’s book, that is.
Enter Derek, Perfect Specimen of Manhood
But hark! What is that sound!
Behold, it is a knock on his van door!
“You ready? I’ve been wanting to get them little
Nope that’s it, I’m not going to repeat all the racist words Debi includes here. Not going to do it. Holy shit there are a lot of them. Jesus Christ. Yuck yuck yuck. Nope nope nope.
Skipping over that, we have:
“Oh! Forgive my bad manners. My name’s Derek. The judge sent me to give you a hand. I love to burn. I’m good at burning and can gar-ruhn-tee there will be no investigation—not even insurance trouble. You ready?”
Giles stood half in and half out of his van, sizing up the loathsome man. “No, not yet. My daughter’s in there, and I’m thinking of doing something else. I just don’t feel like burning is the right thing. Not tonight.”
Derek isn’t impressed, and tells him that the Brotherhood comes before family and that his daughter has been consorting with … more racist words … so she’s guilty too.
What’s funny is that in the hands of a more competent writer, Derek would be motivated to make sure Magdalene is finished off because otherwise, he’s in trouble. If Mr. Giles found out Derek kidnapped and tried to rape his daughter—and Magdalene would tell him—he’d probably kill Derek. But Debi’s writing does not suggest that this knowledge is motivating Derek at all.
Anyway, Magdalene’s father tells Derek that he has definitely changed his mind, and Derek says it’s too late—that he’s already “doused the place with juice and gotten her going.”
Saving the Children
Magdalene’s father runs down the road in a panic to find the house already ablaze. He starts screaming Magdalene’s name, and she appears at the window. “Never in his life had he ever hated his sin more than in this moment. In this awful instant he realized how much he loved his golden girl.” I mean. Sure.
“Jump, Magdalene! I’ll catch you!”
Magdalene leaned out the window holding the baby. She screamed, “I won’t leave the children! Daddy, will you catch the baby? Please, Daddy, please help the children!”
She tosses the kids out the window one by one; the older ones knock Magdalene’s father to the ground as he catches them. Once all four children are out, he tells the oldest child to take the baby and his sisters and get to the van around the corner, and lock themselves in.
Then he tells Magdalene to jump. And she does. But as she does, a gunshot rings out. It’s Derek. He’s shot her. Magdalene’s father catches her, and he holds her, sitting in the grass with her as she dies.
You know, now I’m wondering if Derek is meant to be motivated by not wanting Magdalene to rat him out. He tells Magdalene’s father that “she would have talked”—but of course, he’s talking about the house burning. I still don’t see any direct reference to the fact that Magdalene could have told her father what Derek did to her. That would have been so easy to stick in here as a reminder.
Derek says they have to kill the four kids now, and that Mr. Giles better get with the program. Mr. Giles is not impressed.
Quick warning—this gets rather graphic.
“You filthy, murdering—” He was screaming as he pulled his gun. The pistol cleared leather, bucking and roaring in his trained hand as if it were a part of his arm. Derek never had time to consider his soul or tighten his finger on the trigger of his riffle. The first bullet took him right in the sternum; the second and third took him in the neck and face. He crumbled like a dropped towel. Giles unloaded three more shots into his head. Derek’s body flopped and jerked while behind them the house continued to burn hotter and hotter.
Well that escalated quickly.
I feel gross now.
Asher the Drag Racer
A neighbor calls the fire department, and also calls Malachi, since he knows it’s Omar’s home and he sometimes attends church with Omar and Malachi.
Asher was out the door running to Dusty’s truck before he even knew the whole story. He had done some drag racing in his youth.
Asher has got to be the strangest character in this whole book. He apparently spent his teenage years doing drag racing, hanging out with a middle aged Christian missionary named Dan in a Seattle diner drawing timeline sketches for the rapture and the dispensation, and flying lookout planes for Alaska fishing boats, while his upstanding devout Jewish brother attended college and became a scientist.
Like … can I have the rest of the content please?? Because in absence of some sort of explanation this makes no sense. There are ways to make it make sense—for example, his parents split, and he ended up with his mom while his brother was actually his half-brother, and thus ended up with his dad. Asher’s dad remarried, and became more observant, while Asher’s mom kind of fell apart, and left Asher at complete loose ends. Asher gets picked on at school, wanders into a Bible meeting because there’s free food, and Dan takes him under his wing as a sort of mentor. Asher’s mom, meanwhile, is oblivious.
See? That actually halfway makes sense! But we don’t get any such explanation from Debi, who doesn’t seem to realize anything about Asher’s background needs explaining.
Asher shows up; emergency vehicles show up; Omar shows up. Asher sees the kids in the van and knows they’re safe, but Omar simply dashes toward the house, clearly intending to enter the inferno. Asher grabs him to stop him and Omar punches him out; the emergency workers are able to tackle Omar until he realizes his kids are fine, but Asher is completely knocked out.
He awakened to a cool wet cloth on his aching jaw and head. Cheyenne’s tear-covered face seemed to swim over him. Asher finally managed to sit up but was immediately pushed firmly back down.
In his confusion he could hear young Timothy’s voice. “I screamed and screamed to my dad that us kids were okay and finally he heard me. I never saw my dad act so crazy. He kicked you clean out. Man! We thought you were dead or something, cause you’ve been laying here a long time. Cheyenne cried so bad she made me cry. Did you know I almost squished that man when he caught me? The man told me he’s Magdalene’s daddy. I’m scared for Magdalene. They took her away in the ambulance. Her daddy cried really bad but the sheriff took him now. That’s my dad you hear crying. He won’t stop crying and crying. I wish my daddy would stop.”
Asher registered the sound of continuous loud sobs as coming from his dear friend, Omar. The boy could not understand that this night was his father’s most dreaded nightmare come true.
For all its faults—and let’s face it, it mostly has faults—this book does spend a lot of time on men crying. Men are allowed to be emotionally vulnerable. And that’s interesting. I wonder whether Michael Pearl would have written it this way, or whether this is a Debi thing. It certainly seems at odds with Michael’s knife-throwing manly man manliness, but then, who knows! Maybe this is a Pearl thing.
Also, that monologue from Timothy feels real enough that it’s almost painful. This poor, poor child. And poor Magdalene. For a book that does not once portray the physical discipline advocated in the Pearls’ child training manual, the children in this book get put through the wringer.
WTF Just Happened?
So, let’s see. Derek burned down Omar’s house; Magdalene and her dad worked together to save Tess and Omar’s kids, because Magdalene’s dad has had a sudden change of heart; Derek shot Magdalene, saying there couldn’t be any witnesses to the fire; so Magdalene’s dad shot Derek.
Sounds about right.
I’m still baffled by Debi’s utter inability to recall the fact that the real threat to Derek is not that Magdalene could tell the authorities about the fire (I mean, what had she actually seen, except that her dad and Derek were in the area?), but that Magdalene could tell her dad that Derek kidnapped her and left her alone in the woods for three months. I honestly think Debi forgot about that, because, if Derek were worried Magdalene’s dad would kill him for that—and that’s why he killed Magdalene—he would have also worried that Magdalene’s dad would kill him if he killed Magdalene.
Nothing in this book makes sense.
If Derek could just burn down Omar’s house why didn’t he do that before? Magdalene’s father coming into the neighborhood didn’t actually change anything—he didn’t even participate! Is Omar the only Black person in this whole town? Or are they targeting Omar because he’s Black and works for The Last Publishers? Did Derek start with threatening notes, etc., or go straight to burning his house? If they own the town and are using tax things to get control of TLP, why not drive Omar out that way?
Why do something so very visible?
And I still don’t understand the timing.
Poor Omar. Poor Omar and Tess’s kids. Poor Magdalene. The Super Center bombing was something I could poke fun at—none of our merry band got hurt, and the imagery of Cheyenne pushing Zulla Mae out of the Super Center in a cart was ridiculous. But this? This isn’t funny at all.
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