Which Half David: Mark Sasse
Customs and culture come into play as we enter a world filled with danger, corruption and fear. Missionaries are sent to a country to do good work, to help the people and enrich their lives. Tobin Matthews finds himself in the Sulu Republic with his wife Jane. Although they started out happy and enjoying their work after eight years of marriage they started drifting apart and their life together frayed. Working in a Bataki village, understanding the language and their ways what happens when a corrupt police force comes to the village to burn down their church and their homes. Yet the villagers fight back taking out those that attacked them yet feeling that they should pay for their crimes. Tobin spent a lot of time away from home but one evening on his way he sees something that would change his life, change the way people looked at him and hopefully get some sex traders off the streets. He witnesses or sees young girls abducted and who are about to be sold into slavery and instead of letting it go he sees them pushed and shoved into a drug before his eyes. Chasing after the truck the scene vividly described by the author will give you chills and make you wonder if Tobin was doing the right thing but when the second highest ranking leader of this ring is arrested and the women saved you realize that sometimes quick choices pay off.
Kendra and her husband Bill are determined to work for this same organization as Tobin and his wife. Kendra Nguyen Jordan and her husband Bill have asked to work for this organization and Mr. Hawkins the head of the missionary organization agreed to send them to the Sulu Republic to help Tobin and his wife. But, little does Hawkins know that Kendra has an ulterior motive for this mission. Before arriving and meeting the other couple in person a video feed is set up and only Jane is there to meet both Kendra and Bill and answer their questions. But, Tobin has guilt pangs after receiving a special medal for stopping the sex traffickers and getting them captured. Telling the Chief that he was there the night of the massacre he is told to drop it because he cannot be a villain and hero at the same time. However, when the villagers are arrested for the murders and placed on trial a lawyer named Toggi volunteers to defend him but is he the right one and why does he want only two days to prepare?
Jane is about to be blindsided when Kendra arrives as she and Tobin have a past that no one knows about and although they have not seen each other for ten years things between them and chemistry might draw them together again. Neither Bill or Jane are aware that they knew each other in college and the unexpected and the harsh realities that we learn about them might change the complexion of their mission and making Bill realize even more why he did not want to come in the first place. Tobin is a missionary and a hero working in the Republic of Sulu and refuses to allow the Gani tribal chief to go on trial without his help to defend him and the other tribe members when the local police with machine guns burned down their church, saying it was unlawful building and needed to be torn down stating that Tobin and his Christ not remain or they will start shooting and they did. Toggi has to defend nine members of the tribe while Tobin feels his own guilt and wants to take responsibility for his actions but knows that the best way is to defend the Gani tribe members.
A trial that is quite enlightening as someone managed to tell the Prosecutor that Tobin was there when the massacre happened and it looks like the case is going in the wrong direction. But, the judge listened to both sides and although he gave the prosecutor two extra days to prepare what happens at the trial alerts readers that sometimes the truth does pay as the jury found all of the defendants not guilty but things are about to change course as Kendra sees Tobin when he gives what should have been the lawyers closing statement. Due to the investigations of the incidents Kendra and Bill are there to assist but what will happen when Jane learns the truth? Can they hide their pasts from their spouses and can Tobin control his feelings as Kendra uses her wiles to recapture the past? Tobin is strong in many ways and realizes that he has failed as times as a husband to Jane and seeks forgiveness and redemption. Will his faith in God bring him through or will the darkness take over and will the light ever shine on them again?
A phone call from the head of the missionary organization leads to learning about Kendra and Tobin’s infatuation with her goes back many years as the author flashes back to Tobin’s childhood and Kendra’s too and the link to their pasts are revealed. Tobin realizes that he is in a serious quandary or dilemma and he has mixed feelings that come out as he tries to curb those for Kendra and realize how lucky he is to have Jane. As Tobin and Bill go up to the Gani tribe on a boy’s getaway, Kendra appears to befriend Jane but in reality she creates more doubts for her and gives her much room for thought. The confrontations between Kendra and Tobin create some sparks of their own as both Jane and Bill are deceived by the two deceivers. Both will pay a high price as they debate their final actions and decide where their true loyalties lie as did King David. All four are devoted to God, doing good work to help the Sulu people by teaching them the skills they need to survive on their own but Tobin is impetuous, bold, at times rude, obstinate and nasty to Jane and even Bill. Jealousies rise and anger takes a front row seat as each one has to decide on his/her religious beliefs, and he or she will finally find redemption of salvation. As Tobin appears to be a great man in his community and he is looked at as being good the author brilliantly takes away his goodness slowly and methodically as we see the underneath layers of Tobin. If you read about King David in the Bible you will realize that Tobin if following in his footsteps in some respects as the chemistry between him and Kendra is quite electric at times, both are lying to their spouses and Tobin does submit to his own wiles when seeing Kendra on the roof of their home.
Tobin decides to take Bill on this getaway and his thought parallel those of King David as he seduces Bathsheba but in this case it was to save her from punishment from adultery and he purposely causes the death of her husband Uriah the Hittite. In response, Nathan “Prophesies that the punishment that shall fall upon him:” the sword shall never depart from your house.”.
Leviticus 20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (JPS)(http://www.aeragon.com/itz/06/06-0101-0103-00.html). As a result of their getaway something tragic happens and it changes it all for all four. Bill is thought to be gone and Tobin is arrested for his murder but things change because someone from the village manages to save him. Tragedy strikes hard the Bataki in the form of an earthquake and Tobin has a decision to make. Will he decide to take the punishment he feels he deserves or will something else be set upon him to change his mind? The ending is quite compelling as Tobin has to decide if he can forgive himself for his wrong choices and misdeeds as Jane has to decide if she will remain in Sulu or leave? What happens at the end will surprise readers as sometimes God has a way of showing you the direction you need to take. Once again author Mark Sasse gives readers much pause for thought as four lives change, images are tainted and some restored, as Jane, Kendra, Tobin and Bill have to decide their paths in lives and where they will go next. The final issues are forgiveness and understanding. Can Tobin see the light? What sentence will he choose? The answer in the final chapter is an excellent question for discussion groups.
Fran Lewis: Just review/MJ magazine