Brianna and Ethan start feeling bad for Susan, as they should because OH MY GOSH SHE IS A MESS.
She manages to stay coherent long enough to tell some sort of weird narrative about how she was going to "destroy" Ethan and Brianna by telling the courtroom that Brianna was Ethan's daughter, but that she changed her mind when she saw him:
“When I saw you in that courtroom, a broken man who had done nothing wrong, I realized that it was I who was wrong. I decided I could not hurt you by telling the truth about Janna and her identity. I realized you were doing what you had to as a father— protecting your child. At that moment, I understood.”Yeah, too bad NONE of that came through in the trial, where she worked as hard as she could to testify that Ethan and Brianna had an inappropriate relationship going on.
She then talks for awhile about how great her life was after the trial, how she never had time for her kids, and how she somehow accidentally told Brianna's evil uncles about Brianna being Ethan's daughter.
Then we get this revelation.
“I never thought they would hurt your dad. Days later, I heard the news of your father being killed while he walked to his car. The report said it was an accident, a hit-and-run driver. The newspaper reported that a black truck with two men hit him and fled the scene. I knew it was the same men because I saw them leave my house in a black truck.”Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.
OK, so apparently I wrote up to this point on this blog and then just left it and walked away because I could not process that ridiculous twist. It's now approximately three weeks later than it was when I started writing this blog, and when I reread where I'd gotten to on my draft, I still can't process it.
First of all, it's nice that there's only one black truck in the world. Makes it easy to figure out when the people in it are murdering people.
Secondly, apparently Ethan was right to be super worried about Brianna's family, because turns out they were all completely movie-serial-killer-obsessive about hunting her down and killing her, to the point where they just murdered her grandfather out of nowhere...
...but thirdly, that murder really makes zero sense. There was no reason to think that that would lead them any closer to Brianna. Why did that even happen? It's not like they got a hold of either Ethan or Susan and said, "Bring Brianna to us or this will happen again." Why was randomly killing her grandfather without telling anyone about it part of the plan? How was that going to help them? Were they just mad that Brianna had a grandfather?
The conspiracy theory goes deeper:
[Ethan] thought about the man of Arab descent who stabbed him in prison. Everything began to make sense. “They came after me too, didn’t they?”Because apparently EVERYBODY FROM THE MIDDLE EAST is involved in a vast conspiracy to kill Brianna's family. And prisoner-on-prisoner violence is, of course, so rare that for a man of Arab descent to stab Ethan, he must be connected to them.
I think here I have to quote myself talking about The Quest for Skye, because here we're running into one of the same problems that that book had (well, a lot of them, because Rothdiener's just as crappy a writer no matter what the story is):
There's a movie I really love (which I'm not revealing the name of because I have to get super spoilery here to make my point). The basic idea is that an extremely paranoid man ends up getting very close to a very lonely woman, and by the end of the movie, the relationship has gotten all psychologically tangled up in the paranoia, which she has kind of latched onto in her mind as a way of relating to him. The final scene is this completely terrifying scene where he helps her create this enormous conspiracy encompassing nearly everything that's ever happened to her, making it fit, making the inexplicable facts of one person's life fit someone else's. It's a horrifying almost-monologue as you watch her just spiral and spiral and spiral into madness.
That is what that paragraph was like.The paranoia and Islamophobia and ridiculous leaps of logic they have to take to make everything fit here ("They drove a black truck!" "An Arabic man once stabbed me in prison!") are just utterly incomprehensible. And I want to give up and consider this blog post done because, whoo, ranting about that was intense, but we only have a couple pages left in this chapter and maybe we'll find out MORE stupid conspiracy theories, so I'm charging on.
Brianna reassures Susan that they won't come after them anymore:
Brianna finally spoke. “A few months ago, I confronted them. Conrad told them in no uncertain terms that if they ever tried to harm me, or anyone I love, they would have to face his wrath, and that of the United States military.”I forgot they'd threatened them with the entire military. During this reiteration, though, I am extremely amused that Conrad felt he had to include himself in there. Like, "The military went after you... and also ME." This theme continues:
Susan asked, “Who is Conrad?”
“He’s my bodyguard . . . ”
“It’s really over?” Relief showed on Susan’s face."Because, of course, if a BODYGUARD threatened them, I'm sure these guys who wandered around America killing people and have been rabidly hunting Brianna for 20 years will back off now. Should've thought to have a bodyguard threaten them earlier!"
Ethan forgives Susan while musing how sad it is that she will remain in her own locked little world forever, because he's apparently decided there is to be no real redemption for Susan and no mental healing whatsoever, so that's pleasant.
OH WHAT AND APPARENTLY HE IS RIGHT because in the next scene Susan kills herself.
Way to bring closure to what is clearly supposed to be an inspirational story about forgiveness by having them forgive someone who hurt them significantly, only to have that person consumed by guilt and overdose on pills.
And then Rothdiener just casually throws in that Alana (Susan and Ethan's daughter) died of a drug overdose, too, though that one was probably accidental.
We end the chapter with this grave sentence:
Alana was like many of the young people in her generation, she thought she had time... but her time ran out.Neither Susan nor Alana are mentioned again in the last few chapters of the book.
This is the worst "uplifting" Christian book ever.