This novel involves the animal rights movement, break-ins of major research institutions by the animal liberation front, one of the FBI's special task forces that investigates domestic terrorism, a murder and its mystery, an animal psychic and a tragic suicide.
The story is told through an original and fresh voice, Joyce Jones, a hip, African American FBI agent in charge of the murder investigation, who had always considered animal rights a ".white person's luxury, a thing you cared about when the rent is paid, the children were fed and the bullets stop coming in through the windows." and armed with this attitude, she is pulled into the animal rights movement as she investigates the murder of a prominent scientist who had been the target of animal rights protesters.
Jack Nelson is the supervising agent in charge, a man who has left the highest ranks of the FBI after experience his wife's tragic suicide and who falls in love with Joyce Jones over the course of the investigation. Emma Merton is the animal psychic, an entertaining and provocative character as she provides amusing, fascinating and surprisingly believable glimpses into various animals' consciousness, all the while helping the disbelieving Joyce Jones through the labyrinth of the animal rights movement to find the killer. The story also involves Dr. Toni Anderson, a prominent psychologist, who along with Joyce and Emma, eventually discovers the unexpected truth behind Nelson's wife's suicide.
Along the way we meet a whole cast of true life characters: research scientists who are conducting fascinating current medical research, the animal rights movement leaders, primate experts, philosophers, all of whom offer readers a detailed understanding of this controversial war over animal rights.
Any mystery reader will enjoy this story, but it is NOT genre fiction. While well plotted, it is driven by the characters. I think it's original, unconventional and because of Emma, kind of wacky. Many of the characters and much of the story are drawn from real people and true events. A ton of research went into creating this story. Many people don't know that the Animal Liberation Front is on the FBI's most wanted list and is responsible for over sixty million dollars worth of damage to research facilities as well as ruining a number of scientists' careers. The murder is drawn from an actual case that was never solved. The story tells why.
The Weight of God
The Weight of God is about Lily Merton, a writer and single mom who loses her son Paul in a fatal car accident. Just before the crash Paul and another gifted high school student, Jonathan engaged in a well attended debate: Jonathan argued that love is no more than a chemical reaction in our brains, while Paul argued that love is indeed a gift from God. The play weaves this animated and engaging debate into the story of Paul's deep faith and religiosity and his profound effect on all the people in his life, especially: his mother Lily, his grandmother Clair, Pastor Simon, his older neighbor Ruth and his friend Jonathan.
The play's larger themes are not just religion and science, or how much religion helps us mediate between life and death, but also how art (poetry and painting) deepens our truths and understanding of the world. We watch each of the characters struggle to come to terms with losing Paul, most poignantly Lily. Lily desperately wants to share Paul's beliefs, knowing such convictions would save her from the overwhelming avalanche grief, yet she cannot help but be intellectually aligned with Jonathan. Paul's grandmother, Clair, an art history professor uses selected works of art to illuminate the universal aspect of this struggle. Pastor Simon's relationship with Paul gradually unfolds with a powerful awakening from a more fundamentalist belief system. The old woman Ruth presents the tragedy of life sacrificed to religion and never fully lived. Jonathan's wit and engaging empiricism manages to upset everyone's most cherished beliefs.
Did I mention this play is also funny?
And the way in which great pieces of art appear throughout, I believe it could also be a visually stunning as well. The set is simple--a contemporary living room, but occasionally in the background, pictures of the art would appear on a large screen.
There are roles for six characters. Two eighteen year old men, one forty year old woman, one sixty year old man, one sixty year old woman, one 70 year old woman.
One more thing: This play employs an experimental form. The characters address the audience directly before dropping into the scene or story. I only mention this because the play opens with Lily addressing the audience, and the opening might seem misleading until the other characters urge her to move on, to start the play. That's when it starts to rip.
The Force of Dawn