All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Breathed out by God is Channing Cornwall's sixth novel and the second in a series following the book Hell Came With Her, whose characters show up in this entry but are not the main characters here. This new entry into the series shows a different side of the author. A side that is conflicted yet organized, and maybe, just a little preachy.
The story is centered around Isaac Teller, an ex-preacher whose soul was shattered by a violent act, leaving his belief system naked and torn. In an effort to find God he embarks on a journey of self-discovery, all the while encountering increasingly difficult moral conundrums amid a cutthroat frontier Oregon landscape. Cora Reid is a reformed whore who hopes that Isaac might be the shepherd she needs to stay off her back and accompanies Isaac into the wild. They form an unlikely bond that borders on the romantic with Cora's playful banter creating a tension that tests Isaac's more puritanical ideals.
Channing's uncompromising portrayal of a barbaric 19th century can be shocking at times as he does not shy away from taboo words and language. This just adds to the significance of the story as the author takes you into a world many would step on eggshells to navigate but he seems to find solid ground easily enough. The tale is so full of thoughtful moral challenges that heavy topics seem to be the order of the day and Channing rides waves of uncertainty deftly. Moral juxtapositions shift up and down on a see-saw of Western-style travel adventures consistently creating suspense, intrigue, and momentum. Where Hell Came With Her is about the unwavering drive for revenge, Breathed out by God is what happens when you slow down and start to question the world around you.
Breathed out by God delivers a moral roller coaster with stints of steadfast resolve that offer a brief reprieve and I really enjoyed the ride. There is a bigger point to this book than that of a simple western with its duels and violence. Beliefs have the power to cripple the mind and bolster the heart. But no matter how hard you try we learn that change is inevitable.
Channing is a friend of mine and I am very fond of his work. I can't wait for the next one.