“The Prophet” – A book review

  • Author: Michael Koryta
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (August 7, 2012)

"There is no fear or loss so mighty that it can break faith"

A story about football, love, and passion mixed with anger, remorse, and murder for an intriguing finale of triumph, forgiveness, and redemption.  In small-town Ohio, the steel industry was once king and employed thousands. Now, the steel mills have shut down and football unites the town.  Friday nights during the fall have kept the community from completely turning into a ghost town.  A town where two brothers, the oldest, Adam Austin, is an angry, bitter, drunk bail bondsmen; the youngest, Kent Austin, is the calm, even-keeled, religious head coach of the high school football team, do everything they can to avoid each other.  Twenty-two years ago, these two brothers were on the state champion team, the last time the city brought home the coveted trophy.  During that championship season, Marie, their sister, was murdered on her way home from school.  Twenty-two years later and it seems like deja vu…….

The high school football team is, again, in the playoffs, after going undefeated in the regular season. The people of this town were anxious to bring back the trophy, as well as some pride to a town rocked by the downfall of the steel industry.  They needed something to be proud of again.  Head coach Austin wanted this more than anything in the world, for his team, and his city.  The first playoff game doesn’t go quite as expected, and Kent’s normal demeanor is tested.  Ever the steady, taskmaster, things are not as they seem on the outside.

After the first game, a phone call from the police changes everything.   Colin Mears’, star wide receiver, girlfriend, Rachel Bond, was found murdered.   The news sent Kent reeling back to the horrific memories of his sister’s murder.  He thought he had left that all behind him, buried with Marie.  Now, through a series of events, Kent and Adam would come together, despite their differences in opinion over their sister’s death, all those years ago.

Michael Koryta’s book draws you in, keeps you wanting more, acquaints you with the characters, and informs you of what happens next.  The underlying tone of people wounded by the past and those who seek revenge compelled me to keep reading.  As the story unfolds, it is clear that the past has not been buried.  Brothers who were once companions, never speak.  Adam has never forgiven himself for Marie’s death.  Kent has tried to forget and move on.  Most of the lead characters are haunted by those memories.

With the high school team on the verge of winning state, the town is now troubled by yet another murder. Kent attempts to preach the message of family being more important, but the city needs something to root for as the police department searches for a killer.  Within the heart of the book, Adam becomes the hunter, looking for answers, while Kent, is on a mission of his own.  As the story progresses, it is clear that Adam is dealing with the demons in his past and will go to great lengths to protect his brother.

Many characters make appearances throughout the book, such as Chelsea Salinas, Adam’s married girlfriend whose husband is in prison, who also carries the burden of Marie’s death.  Dan Grissom, the minister who befriends Kent. Penny Gootee, Rachel’s mom, who is a tragic story even before her daughter’s killing.  Finally, Clayton Sipes, the evil prison inmate who Kent had witnessed to several years back.  Each of these weave in and out of the storyline and add background to what transpires.

I enjoyed this book immensely, as it captured my favorite things in life:  faith, family, friends, football; crossing over into the dark side of murder and demons from the past.  While I won’t give away the ending, I will say that it is a shocking twist that makes you question your own relationships.  In the end, forgiveness heals broken hearts and allows those involved to move forward.

"Kent and a boy go to prison.  There, he tells the prisoners he is not so different as them.  He tells about the time he went to kill a man."