Of Love and Evil by Anne Rice
Anne Rice’s latest novel is a pleasant departure from her previous novels which introduced the vampire Lestat into our national lexicon. This time Ms. Rice delves into the realm heavenly angels, fallen angels and assassins.
Yes I did say assassins as the protagonist in the story Toby O’Dare was a type of government “Dexter” who is being allowed to atone for past sins by joining forces with Seraphim, angels whose mission it is to answer man’s prayers to God. Toby is assigned to one specific seraph Malchiah who dispatches Toby through time, space and dimensional universe as a human answer to fervent prayers.
The novel starts off with a beautifully written lyrical prose Toby’s vision of angels, love and being a part of something greater than you. It then slows a bit when we are introduced to love interest Liona and their love-child little Toby. Liona and little Toby will be big Toby’s inspiration impetus for change in this open ended novel. Throughout his journey back in time to Renaissance Italy to solve a murder mystery his lover and child are forever in Toby’s thoughts giving him that much needed link to earthly love which is the terrestrial companion to the Heavenly love that always surrounds us even when we fail to acknowledge it. Neither seraph Malchiah nor Toby’s Guardian angel Shmarya condemn his romantic love or physical desire for his beloved Liona.
The book also explores the role of fallen angels who because of the rebellious role they played with Lucifer are forever banned from re-entering the Celestial realm, but their hot displease and jealousy of man seek to deter humans from their God appointed mission by planting seeds of doubt. Depending on our cultures we know these malicious spirits as ghosts, poltergeists, apparitions, duppies, djin/jinn, or in this story dybbuk. New Age theorists purport ideas of multiple dimensions, soul travel while atheists and agonists claim to reveal religion or faith as a social construct developed by ancient man to explain the unknown nature of the universe.
Ms. Rice through Toby’s journey successfully debunks these last two claims not by discounting science but showing us the realization of faith. Faith that transcends belief systems as Toby is Jewish and he just so happens to the answer to the spoken prayers Hebrew scholar Vitale and the unspoken prayers of his Christian patron Signore Antonio. I enjoyed the way Ms. Rice wove together how love, faith and prayers of the righteous no matter if they are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or any number of other beliefs practiced in our today’s world. God really does hear the cries of a broken desperate heart. Those prayers are answered, not necessarily in the manner we wish or want or even in our brief lifetimes nor has one particular religion or denomination cornered the market on God’s Love and Forgiveness.
As one who is not religious and rarely attends church this book made me rethink my position of approaching the world from only a critical, logical, scientific viewpoint. It kind of renewed the faith that lay dormant inside me and was crushed by life’s tragedies. I don’t know if this was Anne Rice’s intention when she wrote the book but much like Simon & Garfunkel’s famous song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” it had an unforeseen spiritual impact that cannot be denied. Reading this brief novel, (it is only 171 pages) and my work in the museum is leading me on a research exploration of angels celestial and fallen, and the hidden or rejected books of the original or Catholic Bible known as the Apocrypha.
As I stated in a previous paragraph this book is open ended in that though Toby is redeemed by God and the Catholic Church he is not absolved by his victim’s families. One such family member catches up to Toby in the final chapter which will not be the final installment in the Seraphim series.