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The Rapture    by Liz Jensen order for
by Liz Jensen
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Around the globe temperatures soar while continents are repeatedly pummelled by freak weather events. Many within the scientific community point to global warming. Others theorize the situation is already past the point of no return, while an increasing number of ordinary citizens turn to God for answers.

Psychologist Gabrielle Fox is going through her own emotional storm after a recent car crash that killed her lover and left her a paraplegic. Determined to embrace a fresh beginning despite her new limitations, she accepts a job at Oxsmith Adolescent Secure Psychiatric Facility. Among her hundred or so charges is Bethany Krall, a profane and violent teen who had stabbed her mother to death with a screwdriver. Despite two years of treatment she's still unapologetic about what she's done and has come to crave the electric shock treatments that are routinely administered, claiming that they enable her to foresee natural disasters.

Gabrielle is at first sceptical of the girl's claims, but within weeks she's a believer after each of Bethany's predictions comes true. Unfortunately Gabrielle is unable to convince her superiors who would rather the Bethany problem simply go away. Gabrielle's affair with physicist Frazer Melville soon changes all that - he too cannot ignore the girl's uncanny accuracy or her further claims that end time is mere weeks away. Soliciting the aid of other scientists as well as a world-renowned environmentalist, they work frantically to make sense of Bethany's disjointed visions. But by the time they put all the puzzle pieces together it's far too late to stop the inevitable.

While Jensen admits that the fictional scenario she's created in The Rapture 'is within the realm of possibility', realistically such sudden climactic and geological extremes are unlikely. Even so it's no stretch to imagine that humankind could one day succeed in engineering our doom by some sort of environmental calamity. Jensen's crackerjack characterizations only make her bleak, near future world even more terrifying, especially as seen through Bethany's horrific predictions or those chilling moments when she insinuates herself into the psyches of the very people who are trying to understand and help her.

The only glitch in Jensen's near-flawless tale comes when Gabrielle suspects Frazer of having an affair with another scientist in his hastily solicited team. Gabrielle's self-esteem issues aside, she behaves like a jilted teenager after assuming she's been sexually and emotionally used by Frazer to get close to Bethany. Just as quickly all is sorted out to Gabrielle's satisfaction, making the lengthy episode unnecessary. Once back on track however, the story rockets to a surprising, unsettling and darkly poignant conclusion. The Rapture is a timely, thought provoking blend of prophesy and science that paints a horrific picture of environmental doom perpetuated by man.

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