The Masterpiece, by Francine Rivers came highly recommended, and truthfully, I can understand why. But, I was disappointed. I have never read Francine Rivers before, and this book makes me wonder if I want to give her a second chance. I might, but I might not. Let me explain.
The protagonist, born Bobby Ray Dean, is now a successful artist who uses the professional name, Roman Velasco. He has grown up on the streets—not of his own choosing—and doing graffiti, running from the police, and rebelling against all authorities in his life, even those who love him. He does bad-boy graffiti all over the world–his character obviously inspired by Banksy.
Years later, he does the kind of art that sells, and with his innate talent, he makes a lot of money.
Grace Moore (notice her name, very significant) comes to work for him. She’s a lovely person, a single mom who is determined to overcome. She is also a new Christian. Of course, she’s beautiful, and so is he, and there’s an immediate physical attraction between the two protagonists. But, to her credit, Grace keeps her boundaries, and Roman despairs of ever having a relationship with her.
It’s here in the story where I believe the author gets into stuff that’s so unbelievable that I just couldn’t go with it. Both Grace and Roman have visions of angels, demons, and hell. Roman ends up with an injury caused by a demon biting him. (Seriously! Kind of like Jacob in the Bible, only that was Jesus.) It’s the familiar near-death heaven story, only he goes to hell and comes back. I just can’t.
Another problem for me was the author’s allusions to swearing. Sometimes, she comes very close to providing the reader with the specific words. I don’t feel comfortable with that.
There are the descriptions of sex, semi-nudity, the nightclub scene, and one-night stands that went farther than I wanted to read about. It isn’t play-by-play graphic but enough that I didn’t appreciate it.
Frankly, I think The Masterpiece has several serious flaws, one being it was unbelievable. Too much had happened to both of the protagonists. There are too many loose ends for me and too many coincidences, along with the weird spiritual visions and iffy theology. For example, because Roman has the experience of almost going to hell, and Jesus reaches out to him and brings him back, the author says more than once that Jesus saved him. Later, he really does repent, giving his life to the Lord in true salvation. (Sorry for the spoiler, but this is important to me.) Salvation is when people repent of sin, see themselves as needing a Savior, and call out to Jesus for salvation, and not when they see visions. I felt this was misleading. It bothered me greatly that the most unbelievable part of the book is the supposedly spiritual part. I know this is fiction, but I don’t think authors should play with scenes about God.
Another thing that bothered me was jumping back to different years in the main characters’ pasts and then back to the present. It happens a lot in this book. Why couldn’t the author have made it flow a little better? I wonder why the editor permitted this.
Although the ending was satisfying, the art masterpiece I expected to be revealed at the end of the book seems to have gotten lost somewhere, and a different painting ends up there.
I cannot personally recommend this book.