Christian testimony takes bizarre turn
Book: The Destiny of Man Unplugged
Author: Tanya Coley
In this metaphysical chronicle, writer Tanya Coley recalls her life story, which began in the storied, bucolic, and humble Font Hill district of Jamaica. It's uneventful - a typical West Indian lifestyle of yesteryear, divorced from the amenities and allure of city life. For Tanya, her 11 siblings and parents, the ennui and quietude of rural life could only be overcome by their imagination and will to chart their own course. Coley details her conversion to evangelical Christianity. It redefines her and rattles her parents' hitherto stable relationship. Their visiting pastor has overreached; he is intrusive, offering unsolicited counsel on expected behaviour and demanding that married women refrain from wearing their wedding bands. Her father weathers the storm and life goes on, seemingly without further incidents.
Unplugged lumbers along, tedious at times, and Coley can be annoyingly vague, unable to remember key moments when it really matters, for example, her inability to recall a work-related charge against her at an adult literacy programme.
Life, though, for the outgoing teen is not all tepid and trite. She is a victim of a vicious rape that goes unreported. And there's something otherworldly lurking, poised to transform Coley forever. She sees dead people. For the most part, paranormal experiences of children are often dismissed as the product of suggestibility or an overactive mind. Sometimes, though, they foreshadow a veritable gift bestowed by a higher power. But Providence does not unfold just yet. Readers are asked to lend an ear to Coley's foray into the military, a five-year stint without any volcanic occurrences, save for male egos gone awry and overt and blatant gender bias. Sexual harassment follows in quick suit. But her sojourn proves long and winded, like her initial years in New York. Sure, there is one poltergeist-like encounter and one subliminal (spiritual) prompting, but readers must endure before Coley's life really takes a bizarre turn.
A mysterious illness sends her to a hougan (voodoo priest) in Haiti, who removes crawling lizards from her body. It is fantastical and incredulous but to Coley and those witnessing the phenomenon, nothing could be more real. Her ailments abate but not for long. We can only surmise that she is the target of colleagues at work. Twenty thousand dollars later and the victim of charlatans, Coley cries out for divine help and her prayers are answered.
Once derailed from the Christian path, she is thirsty as ever for her Saviour. She pens, "My interest in Jesus had increased. I realised that through the preachers and teachers of His word, He was teaching me, guiding me, providing necessary information to me, and blessing me immensely. One morning, after praying and before leaving for work, as I knelt there, I heard a voice telling me that I needed to forgive."
Coley's mediumistic abilities grow. She becomes a conduit, supposedly for the Holy Spirit, that is somehow obsessed with death. A string of predictions bears bitter fruits: a Tsunami claims the lives of tens of thousands, followed by the deaths of those closer to her orbit.
Her Christian journey may prove vexing to many when she cheers for Katrina, a devastating flood that wrecked New Orleans. "Yes, Lord, destroy it - the Mardi Gras and all the things they do there that are wrong." And she basks in the fact that her home is saved from damage during Hurricane Wilma. She is convinced of Jesus' protection and unbowed by the calamity visited on others.
But Coley's testimony has only just begun. From the comfort of fine living, she finds herself penniless, transient and a resident of multiple homeless shelters. Her relatives lend a hand reluctantly - if at all. She perceives her husband as her tormentor from whom she must escape. Fellow Christians are unhinged by her very presence, unsettled by her dramatic display of worship.
She is suspicious, almost paranoid, trusting only God's counsel - not intuition - but God's very words that are audibly transmitted to her.
She is committed to a mental institution, albeit for a few days, until she finally finds comfort and solace in a man she swears is Jesus incarnate. Coley is constantly on the move, at the behest of God, finally resetting in Jamaica with the embodiment of the Christian Saviour tagging along. But readers well know that this saga is far from over.
Unplugged takes us on a roller coaster of a ride. It is wildly unpredictable and borders on flights of grandeur, pathology, hubris, and Christian exceptionalism. But through it all, Coley remains an endearing, sympathetic figure, and only by virtue of her raw authenticity are we compelled to root for her.
Rating: Interesting read