In today's secular society, it is very difficult to write a book about FAITH. And that's what this book is about - FAITH, not religion. For those people who do not understand the difference, you are really one of those sheep in need of a shepherd - one that leads you to hope and not despair. In his novel, Owens, through a sermon by a female Presbyterian pastor, defines FAITH as simply "keeping one's eyes open" and the sermon he uses masterfully provides an analogy that makes sense of this definition. It is tempting to simply give in to despondence given the current political situation in this country, so I believe that this novel has been released at the opportune time, offering us all some answers and some desperately needed hope.
It is also very difficult to write about the South, particularly to write for people who did not grow up in that region of America. Owens has written about the South more honestly and authentically than any other "Southern" writer that comes to mind - without the theatrics of Conroy, without the confusion of Edgerton, and without the sentimentality of Sparks. I believe he has accomplished an important mission in doing this and quietly removed a lot of stereotypes that have been floating around for too long.
As far as his characters not being fully developed enough to care about, as was stated in one narrow-sighted review, I beg to differ, and marvel that the reviewer could not recognize that all of these characters are all facets of one very complex individual, the author. It was obvious to me from the beginning.
Anyone who attempts to give this novel a negative review needs to either re-read it "keeping their eyes open" or go back to school and learn what makes a piece of writing this deeply personal truly great. I can only look forward to his next novel and wonder what insight and understanding of the human condition and human nature Owens' provides. He is truly a genius in helping one see those things.