The Ravine: A Novel of Evil, Hope, and The Afterlife

Today I posted a book review on Amazon for The Ravine: A Novel of Evil, Hope, and The Afterlife by Robert Pascuzzi:

Forgiveness is a concept that seems to be everywhere these days, whether in books, Facebook memes, or at the pulpit. No matter what their religious or spiritual tradition, most of us can agree on the necessity of forgiveness in the human experience.

But what does it really mean? And how can someone forgive a crime like the horrific murder of one’s own wife and child?

In his compelling fictional novel The Ravine, author Robert Pascuzzi delves deeply for answers to these questions, drawing from the teachings of Jesus in Scripture. Understanding the difficulties most of us have in offering forgiveness for much lesser transgressions than murder, the author presents a realistic portrayal of characters struggling to process the reality of two brutal murders and a suicide by a very close friend.

Along the way, readers encounter supernatural occurrences, along with a psychically gifted character who acts as a bridge between God and the grief-and-anger stricken. While I would like to have seen the character of Tony throughout the course of the novel (he’s the brother of the murderer) and witnessed his spiritual development in the aftermath of the crimes, Pascuzzi does a nice job portraying its effects upon the offender’s two best friends, who nearly lose their marriage in the fallout.

Readers may be put off by what appears to be “The Devil Made Me Do It” excuse, but I viewed this as one man’s inability to use his God-given free will to say “No” to evil and listen to the word of God instead of the directives of The Enemy. I found the book to be a fascinating ride through this imperfect earthly life, with the promise of heaven via forgiveness. It’s filled with hope that life does not end but rather changes form, while it affirms God’s promise to his faithful. A highly recommended read.

Today, I interviewed Robert Pascuzzi on Writestream. Click below to listen to a thought-provoking discussion.

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Writestream Tuesday: Getting to Heaven by Going through Hell

Today I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Scot Hodkiewicz, author of the new memoir, Getting to Heaven by Going through Hell. Having been involved in the project as Scot’s editor, I can tell you this book is a must-read, especially for those dealing with adversity. Scot’s example of refreshing honesty and willingness to engage in self-examination in the aftermath of a horrific accident is not only admirable but practical. Not matter what your unique struggle is, you can discover the inspiration and information you need to emerge from the experience a stronger, wiser, happier, and more spiritually connected person.

We talked anger, forgiveness, earth angels and finding heaven right here…..before passing on to the other side. If you missed it, click below to listen. Purchase Getting to Heaven by Going through Hell on Amazon in Kindle or paperback.

Check Out Books Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Writestream Radio Network on BlogTalkRadio
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A Review of Les Misérables

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Les Misérables been my favorite stage musical since I first experienced it about 20 years ago. With its compelling and universal themes of redemption, forgiveness, hope, faith and charity intertwined with heart-wrenching human tragedy and suffering, the story’s appeal is timeless, though it is set in 19th century France during a period of violent political upheaval. In an unapologetic nod to God and Christianity, it features a merciful priest who provides the turning point for the main character and concludes with a celebration of the eternal nature of the soul, so beautifully portrayed on stage in the production’s final scene. Unlike many musicals the songs of Les Misérables, belted out by various characters, particularly the protagonist Jean Val Jean, take precedence over dialogue and provide the central means of expressing their deepest fears and anguish as well as advancing the plot.

So how would all of this translate onto the screen in two hours and 37 minutes with actors who aren’t primarily known for their singing skills?

Magnificently.

Played masterfully by Hugh Jackman, the character of Jean Val Jean, a man who transforms from petty thief to hardened prisoner to embittered free man to successful factory owner and mayor — all while being relentlessly dogged by law-upholding police inspector Javert — is nothing short of brilliant. Jackman’s impressive vocals, mannerisms and facial expressions, combined with his genuine physicality (he actually lost weight and abstained from water for 36 hours before filming Val Jean’s prison sequence) bring this multi-faceted character to vibrant, mesmerizing life in an Oscar-worthy effort.

Russell Crowe turns in a respectable performance as Val Jean’s determined nemesis Javert, a man who lives by the letter of the law and performs his duties as police inspector with unrelenting focus and grim resolve. In one of the most remarkable examples of film’s superiority over stage, the scene in which a beaten down Javert, unable to accept the mercy shown him by his longtime enemy — foreshadowed many times by Javert’s habit of walking along the edges of tall structures while decrying Val Jean — is gut-wrenching in its palpable realism.

Then there’s Anne Hathaway, whose heartbreaking interpretation of tragic Fantine should also earn her an Oscar. Her haunting rendition of I Dreamed A Dream, the character’s sorrowful signature ballad of what might have been is jarring in its raw emotion as is the scene in which a defeated Fantine weeps bitterly while her silky, long hair is roughly cut off in exchange for desperately needed money.

Since all musical performances were filmed live rather than having the actors lip-sync to a pre-recorded soundtrack, they’re a spellbinding testament to the extraordinary talent of director Tom Hooper’s assembled cast. Combined with spectacular cinematography, Les Misérables creates an experience for the movie-goer that extends far beyond the limitations of the stage. From the opening scene in which Val Jean and the other prisoners toil fiercely to right a massive ship under brutal conditions to the breathtaking mountain landscapes to the bloody battles on the barricades to the breathtaking finale in which Val Jean passes on to his richly deserved eternal reward, this movie is absolutely captivating.

Just be sure to bring along a pack of tissues. You’ll definitely need them.

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