Friday, October 9, 2015

The Quest for Forgiveness: The Mysterious Soldier Who Must Be Lying

Last time, Conrad proposed to Brianna when neither one of them had openly said they were romantically interested in the other. He also made a big deal of reminding her that he fell in love with her when she was 16, so that was all the creepy.

Today's chapter is called "A Shocking Discovery," and I honestly can't remember what that shocking discovery is, so this'll be all kinds of fun. I'll be as shocked as all of you!

The chapter opens with Brianna visiting a hospital for American soldiers in Germany and visits them all and is sad because they are hurt. She is introduced to one specific 19-year-old soldier whose prognosis is extremely bleak. He wakes up just long enough to ask her to take a message to his wife and kids back home. (The message is that he loves them.)

She talks to the guy for awhile and he talks mostly about how much he regrets having gotten his now-wife pregnant at fifteen. He gets super bitter when Brianna says she's an actress and tells her she should try being a soldier, but she eventually Mary Sues him into liking her anyway.
“[W]ho doesn’t know of the great Brianna Bays? Please forgive me, but I have a bullet lodged inside my brain that’s playing havoc on my memory.”
"Only a bullet in my brain could possibly have kept someone from recognizing BRIANNA BAYS."
“You sure can play a mean guitar... for a girl.”  
She smiled.
Ah, sexism. How charming.

Anyway, the soldier goes on telling about how he and his wife eloped when she went off to college, and then his band got busted for drug use, so he got the option of joining the military instead of going to jail. He then gets even MORE bitter when she says she'll pray for him:
“I finally left home and lived on the streets. How could you possibly understand?” He shifted his gaze back to her. “I bet you own five houses around the world.”  
Brianna took a deep, steadying breath. “As a matter of fact, I own seven houses, but five of them are for sale.”
This exchange completely cracks me up. If Rothdiener's trying to make Brianna come across as humble and compassionate, it's totally not working. She just sounds snarky as can possibly be.

The soldier then goes on to talk about how he "lied, stole, and even almost killed a man" while living on the streets. But I can't figure out WHEN exactly he lived on the streets and had time to do all this. He was in his stable home getting his girlfriend pregnant at 15 (his son is three and he's 19, so they were probably both 15, not just her) then he was in a band when he was 16 and hit the road after his girlfriend's parents broke the two of them up. His band got super successful, he got married, they got busted for drugs, he joined the military, he ended up here.

When exactly did he live on the streets? Before he was 15, so his girlfriend was dating a homeless teenage runaway and her parents only objected when he got her pregnant? After they were together but before he joined the band? Somehow while he was in the band? After the band broke up but before the military when he had a wife and kid? NONE OF THESE MAKE SENSE.

I think Rothdiener wrote two separate "Brianna magically cures soldiers with her amazingness" scenes and then mushed them together so one soldier has these mysterious extra years in his life during which he was living on the streets almost killing people. Just like Brianna had those mysterious extra years where she got a black belt in karate.

Brianna tells him about Jesus and tells him she'll only deliver his message to his family if he reads the Bible and forgives his abusive parents. Lovely. He agrees, though. They banter for a bit about why there is evil in the world if God is good, and then she goes, and then...

The young man was startled when he spotted the heart-shaped mark on her forehead.  
Brianna smiled and turned to leave.  
He stared at the celebrity as she walked away.  
After only a couple steps, the soldier desperately cried out, “Janna?” . . . “It is you, isn’t it? Janna, it’s really you.” He began to thrash around, emotionally out of control, trying to reach her. He shouted, “It’s me, Eric... your brother!”
In case you don't remember, the last we knew of Eric was this:
"Eric ended up getting a fifteen-year-old girl pregnant, shirked his responsibilities, dropped out of school, and ran away. He joined a street gang in L.A. where he killed a rival gang member. Then he just disappeared. Rumor has it... he was killed in a street fight over drugs."
Let's compare that to what he himself just said he was doing after the pregnancy:
“I played guitar in a rock band when I was sixteen, but when I wasn’t permitted to see Gabi, I hit the road. . . . The band spent a year in California, and then went to New York. Had a successful gig there. I managed to save enough money to fly back to get Gabi and Weston.”
So... that year in California with the band was when he joined a street gang and killed a rival gang member? Or "almost killed," as Eric put it? He was out in California with his band, lived on the streets, joined a gang, killed a gang member, and then went with his band to New York, where somehow people just magically couldn't find him despite the fact that he was trying to publicly make a name for himself and should not have been that hard to find? Was the rest of his band in a gang too? Was his whole band a gang all to themselves? Was the rest of his band homeless? What is going on here?

There are two different versions of this story here (three if we count Ethan's story, Eric's band story, and Eric's on-the-streets story which doesn't fit with the band story in the first place). I am pretty sure Eric just made up his band story, because it's the one of the three that doesn't belong. He probably never even had a band.

I peeked ahead in this chapter to see if Eric offers any, "Oh, so you thought XYZ happened to me, but ZYX did instead!" comments, but nope. They all just celebrate and cry and yell miracle. Eric recovers completely from his injury. Brianna flies to Germany twice a week while still touring the rest of the world just to check up on Eric.

And that's where that chapter ends. We only have two more chapters and five more pages left. We are SO CLOSE to being done with this horrible excuse for a book.

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