The Redemption Wall

   

An epic action novel of adventure and personal discovery through the eyes of a young man fleeing from a rich and powerful family. Luke Canfield is born into a ranching dynasty but is subjected to horrible abuse by his fanatically religious father.

The redemption wall is the place where Luke’s father inflicts corporal punishment on him, almost daily, and Luke endures it for years until the only person left to defend and protect him, his grandmother, suddenly dies. Finding the courage to escape his persecution, he is offered a way out, but must travel alone, quickly maturing as he gains experience along the way, across the U.S. from Oregon to Florida, in an attempt to meet up with a family offering him protection on a sailing vessel in the Caribbean, but he must arrive before the family sails away.

 His odyssey is a tale of fear, hunger, abuse, adventure and courage through the eyes of a quickly maturing young man. Set in 1967, in a world experiencing drugs, free love, and racial tension and in a time when the words, child abuse weren’t spoken out loud.

Genre

Action/Adventure

Critic Evaluation

Cover Design Score: 6

The cover image looks good, and accurately portrays the region in which the narrator grew up. It's also a striking, visually appealing image that attracts the eye. My main concerns are that it doesn't really connect to the idea of a "redemption wall" as explained in the book, and that it looks a lot like the cover of a traditional Western, which it isn't. Some readers may have an issue adjusting their expectations. Still, it's a solid choice and I understand why the author picked it.

Also, the phrase "buy it on Amazon today" doesn't need to be included on the main cover, as it distracts from both the image and the text.

Book Blurb Score: 8

The blurb does a good job establishing the book's premise, main character, stakes, and basic plot in a way that piques a potential reader's curiosity. The only real issue with it is that it's too long. Condensing the plot summary in the second paragraph would help there.

Formatting Score: 7

The text is readable, with no obvious paragraph/indent issues, and although the type size might be a bit large, it didn't bother me. That might be a good thing for e-books, anyway.

More than once, the end of a chapter and the heading for the next were on the same page with a huge gap in between them. I recommend reformatting to address those gaps, as they will look awkward on e-readers.

Another minor quibble: delete the "page" from the page number/title/author headers, and make the text for those headers smaller.

Grammar & Spelling Score: 7

There are a few spelling errors throughout the book ("principle" instead of "principal" when talking about the head administrator for a school, as one example), and some punctuation errors: question marks where there should be commas, overusing exclamation points, and so on. It's nothing that a good copy-editor can't fix, and I strongly suggest hiring one, especially if the author is planning on self-publishing.

Also, the title page should read "a novel by Marcus Miller" instead of "a novel Marcus Miller." 

Plot & Structure Score: 6

The book's basic plot is simple and easy to understand, and the author clearly establishes what's at stake for Luke. Likewise, the transitions between chapters feel natural, and the pace of the line-by-line writing is quite good. Likewise, the narrative thread of Luke traveling, as seen through his limited first-person perspective, is easy for the reader to follow.

The book's main structural flaw so far is its length, which affects the overall pacing as well. There's a lot of extraneous detail about various types of farmwork and outdoor life, especially before Luke runs away from home, that don't really add much to the narrative except bloat. The writing itself is strong, but those sections can be condensed to establish the setting without getting so lost in it. 

Character Development Score: 6

Luke is a scrappy, likeable protagonist with a certain boyishness that makes his narration compelling and interesting, even in unpleasant moments. Readers will respond well to him, for sure. However, this book is a character study of him, for the most part, so there isn't much room for other characters to grow alongside him once he's on the road. 

The first part of the book has the opposite problem, in that there are too many characters who all serve the same narrative function: Henry and most of Luke's relatives teach him things and reassure him that he doesn't deserve his father's abuse (while also doing nothing to stop it), and there isn't much to distinguish them beyond that. Henry and Luke's pipe-smoking grandfather are the most interesting of that group; the others can be condensed a lot.

Tony and his family, meanwhile, could stand to be developed a bit more. Considering how important they are to Luke (he hitchhikes across the country to find them), they don't appear in the book all that much.

Finally. Luke's father occupies an odd space in this book. He's the primary antagonist who disappears at the end of part one, is introduced and then shoved aside because Luke is traveling, and only appears in brief, largely-summarized moments to beat his son. The reader barely sees him interact with anyone else in the book, and we aren't given much of a justification for why he's so abusive to Luke instead of his other two children. More scenes of abuse aren't needed, but more scenes of him as a domineering, antagonistic presence in Luke's life and community are desperately needed. Once Luke runs away, the idea of his father needs to loom over him and affect his behavior and reactions to things a bit more. For example, Luke takes off his shirt in front of Tony when someone in his position, having been warned against it by an abusive parent, absolutely wouldn't without a ton of resistance.

Another minor character quibble: the black characters later in the book sound enough like racial stereotypes to turn some readers off. I doubt that the author intended this, but I'd rewrite their dialogue to exclude dialect. 

Originality Score: 7

The basic architecture of this story is familiar, but Luke's circumstances and personality make this version of it stand out. It may not be a flashy new idea, but it's a good, timeless, coming-of-age narrative.

Pacing Score: 5

As stated earlier, the book's pacing suffers early on from too much exposition about subjects unrelated to the core story. The sections about horse riding and breaking, scuba diving, and boating don't need to be explained in such exhaustive depth - give the reader enough to set the scene and develop the characters involved, but not so much that they forget their place in Luke's story.

Likewise, the family visits can be condensed down to one or two, as they also throw off the pace and dilute the story of Luke gathering up the courage to leave home and escape his father's abuse.

Use of Language Score: 6

The author's vocabulary and word choices are strong overall, and for the most part, the dialogue flows well. I was wondering what age group the author is writing for, however, as Luke's sex and rape scenes were too explicit (and went on a bit too long) for YA, but Luke's narrative voice and observations are a good fit for YA otherwise. These tonal shifts should be addressed in revision.

Overall Readability Score: 7

Despite the aforementioned issues with pacing and tone, the line-by-line writing is solid and the plot is easy enough to follow once Luke runs away. Even the sections that need to be condensed aren't bad or uninteresting, they're just too long. In particular, the author has a clear, steady eye for detail that draws readers into the story, and the descriptions of food are exceptional.

This book received a critic's score of 65 out of 100 possible points.

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