If there’s a message in bestselling author Frank Peretti’s new book Illusion, it’s a thank-you card, he says, or maybe a love letter to his wife – as well as a celebration of marriage.
“It’s a tribute,” he says from his home in rural Idaho, “to my own relationship with my wife, Barbara. I’m 61 now and I’m looking back at 40 years of marriage. This book is an exploration of just what kind of people make that sort of commitment and enjoy the sort of devotion to stick together through thick and thin for four decades.”
With more than 15 million books in print, Peretti has been nothing short of a publishing phenomenon since the 1980s, His international bestsellers This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness were surprise hits by a tiny publishing company. But they were championed by evangelical icons of the day such as songwriter Michael W. Smith, whose “Ashton” on his platinum album “i2(Eye)” in 1988 alerted teens to the book, and Amy Grant, who during concert would just mention “a really great book I just read,” prompting a rash of sales.
Three of Peretti's bestsellers
Peretti could be called the father of modern Christian fiction with his 21 titles, including the The Oath and The Visitation – as well as a number of books and videos for kids. Unlike his early bestsellers, Illusion is not about spiritual warfare. In a departure from the good vs. evil plots for which he is famous, Peretti tells the story of a married, middle-aged couple of show-biz, Vaudeville-type illusionists.
In Illusions‘s 512 pages and 150,000 or so words, there’s no
heavy sermon. “It has a Christian message in it,” he says, “but I don’t spoon feed it to the reader. Those who have an ear will hear.”
Instead, it’s an allegory. “It’s written from a Christian world view. It’s more like C.S. Lewis did in the Narnia books. He didn’t have a blatant Christian message. But it was based on Christian imagery.
“Marriage is an institution of Almighty God and if I can glorify that and awaken people’s admiration for the joy and sanctity of marriage, then I have accomplished my purpose,” says the author. “Marriage is a beautiful thing and it’s worth working on. Marital devotion is certainly worthwhile. I’d be happy if readers just took that away with them.”
Some of Peretti's books and videos
Illusion tells the story of Dane and Mandy, a popular magic act for four decades who are tragically separated by a car wreck that claims Mandy’s life — or so everyone thinks.
Dane mourns and tries to rebuild his life without her, but Mandy, supposedly dead, awakes in the present as the 19-year-old she was in 1970. Distraught and disoriented in what to her is the future, she ends up in a mental ward until she discovers her newfound ability to move invisibly through time and space.
She uses her mysterious powers to eke out a living, performing illusions on the streets and in a funky coffee shop. Coincidentally, the grieving Dane wanders into the coffee shop and is astonished by her act. She does illusions that even he, a seasoned professional, cannot explain.
But more than anything, he is smitten by this teenager who has never met him, doesn’t know him and is certainly not in love with him. However, she is in every aspect identical to the woman of his dreams whom he first met and married some 40 years earlier. They begin a furtive relationship as mentor and protégée as Dane tries to sort out who she really is and she tries to understand why she is drawn to him.
Three youth novels
One wonders while flipping through the pages whether it is tough writing to evangelicals – Peretti’s biggest and most faithful audience. “It used to be a lot more strict than it is now,” he admits. “I may be