Published by Thomas Nelson on October 23, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Suspense, Novelization
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Inspired by true events, Indivisible is a story of love, service, and finding each other all over again. Darren and Heather Turner share a passion for serving God, family, and country. When Darren is deployed to Iraq as an army chaplain, Heather vows to serve military families back home as she cares for the couple’s three young children.
Darren knows he’s overseas to support the troops in their suffering as their chaplain. What he doesn’t know is how he will get through his own dark moments. And as communication from Darren dwindles, Heather wonders what is happening in her husband’s heart. Meanwhile, she’s growing weary in the day-to-day life of a military base—each child’s milestone Darren will never see, each month waiting for orders, each late-night knock on the door.
When Darren returns, he is no longer the husband Heather once knew. She is no longer the woman Darren wed. And so it’s at home that the Turners face their biggest battle: to save their marriage.
Based on the screen play by David Evans, Indivisible is a tribute to the beauty of serving our country, the courage of choosing love in the darkness, and the power of a God who never gives up hope.
Novelizations are never easy. As an author, you’re expected to take a screenplay—and perhaps, but not always, watch the film—and do some imaginary acting and flesh out the characters, their internal monologues, and do the descriptive work that gets fulfilled in other areas in a visual medium.
In full admission, I don’t think I’ve ever found a novelization to be great. Good? Perhaps. Faithful to the source material? Sure. But novelizations have a way of boxing in an author and keeping them from being creative. Even the best writers, and I would put Travis Thrasher among them, have difficulty writing someone else’s story originally told in a different medium.
Indivisible is especially tricky. It’s a true story (based on the life of Darren and Heather Turner) first. Then in got turned into a screenplay. Then the screenplay was handed to Travis to turn into a novel. In my opinion, what should have happened was the movie crew and publishing team putting Thrasher and the Turners in a room together and letting whatever story there was flow from there. It would have turned out much better and much more authentic than this stock, uninspiring, and—frankly—boring novel.
Darren and Heather’s marriage takes a hit when he is deployed as a military chaplain. The long distance and time apart, coupled with the stressors of war (the actual war and the battles of being a single mom) tear them apart. The book follows their story from 2007, when Darren is deployed, to 2009, when they finally reconcile their marriage.
The two years between is a rocky journey. During deployment, we see Darren settle into his job as chaplain. One that—and I say this as a pastor—he doesn’t come across as all that prepared for. We’re never really taken very deep, either. Every person who comes to him of any substance will turn out to only be a foil for his own growing marriage issues.
Thrasher also puts a lot of the storytelling on Darren’s letters to home and his blog posts. The result is a lot of “telling” without a lot of “showing.” I felt like I was having a movie described to me, rather than the story coming alive itself. We’re in a war zone and the biggest action is the chaplain writing a blog post! That’s not entirely true. There is one (that I can recall) battle scene that’s there simply to show that Darren’s bad at war.
When Darren gets back home, he struggles to integrate back into family life. There’s so much potential here, but the story stays basic and superficial. The lynchpin of the story is the relationship between Darren and Heather and we’re never given enough to feel invested in their characters or care about or understand their motivations.
It’s about page 275 that Darren begins to see the need to repair his marriage. By 287, Heather has accepted her role in bringing the family back together. And by 294, literally in all-caps “ONE FAMILY. UNDER GOD. INDIVISIBLE.” The whole book was about a marriage broken and redeemed and they go from Heather asking him to leave to a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner in approximately the last 8% of the story.
For anyone who has dealt with difficulties in their marriage, particularly military families, the rather cavalier way the book—and presumably the movie—handles their reconnection is a bit disingenuous. It doesn’t have the depth these kinds of stories deserve.
I’m sure Darren and Heather Turner have a story worth telling and I know that Travis Thrasher would be the guy to turn to if they wanted to tell it. (His non-fiction collaborations like Never Let Go and even Matty B Raps are very good.) This story told in this way…it just isn’t.
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