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Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
Canaan Land by Richard A. Rossi offers an insightful view into the world of contemporary Christian ministry. Beware of those masquerading as angels of light; they may be wolves in sheep's clothing. Sister Sara Sunday’s intentions are genuine; her motives are pure in reaching the world for Christ. Yearning to discover her Canaan Land, Sara leaves Virginia and heads to California. Sara starts an online ministry, hoping to turn Hollywood into Holywood. Through the sincerity of Sara’s messages, Bethany Temple’s online community grows. Although Sara considers Jesus her partner, she prays and longs for a soulmate to share her hopes and dreams. Billy Gantry, on the other hand, uses his knowledge of scripture and cunning charisma to con searching souls with his so-called psychic and healing powers. After being booted from his job and the latest relationship, Billy finds himself alone on the street. Billy realizes his time is running out, and doubts he will ever find his promised land. After hearing Sara preach, Billy is enamored by her. He decides to pursue her, making Sara his next mark. Billy wants what Sara has, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to have Sara and her ministry. Billy plans and lives out the greatest con of his life. If he can’t have his own Canaan Land maybe he can usurp Sister Sara’s.
Richard A. Rossi’s Canaan Land will certainly ruffle feathers and raise eyebrows in the Christian community. Although it was hard to swallow at times, I appreciated Rossi’s expose of the truth. This narrative depicts the verse “...wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13). Throughout the narrative, Rossi weaves a story of opposites - purity versus tainted, genuine versus counterfeit, devotion versus dishonesty, arrogance versus humility, and lust versus love. The classic conflict of good versus evil is portrayed through these extreme polar intentions of the heart. The two main characters are entangled in this constant struggle - one gives, and the other takes; one chooses the narrow gate, and the other the wide gate. As the story unfolds, the reader can’t help but feel the intensity of this spiritual tug-of-war. Both characters have experienced abuse in their pasts. Yet, they deal with their personal trauma very differently. However, it is also the effect of their abuse that draws them to each other. As the plot reaches its climax and then begins to fall, both characters experience an opportunity for growth. Billy’s dramatic change of character is right up there with the transformation of the prodigal son and Saul getting knocked off his high horse. Canaan Land proves that no one is beyond the reach of God’s saving grace. I am looking forward to watching the movie when it is released.