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The Seventh Messenger by Carol Costa
The House of David has many secrets behind its walls. Its members gave all of their worldly possessions to their leaders and worked behind the confines of this community for the benefit of its members. King Benjamin and Queen Mary were the leaders of this group and their followers never questioned their motives or beliefs. Ice cream parlors, baseball teams, amusement parks and The Diamond House were only part of what was considered the House of David.
Just who were these leaders and why did one woman named Naomi want to learn the truth about her parentage so many years later. With a mother sworn to keeping it silent and a father she thought she knew but never really did, Naomi comes back to where it all began to find out the hidden secrets never revealed to her as a kid. Queen Mary is a frail and older woman who claims to speak and see angels. Naomi blatantly calls her on it in front of a small congregation. The story begins in 1879 1970’s as Mary’s voice is heard and Naomi will learn the secrets hidden from her for so many years. The Seventh Messenger: Just who is Benjamin Purnell and why did he claim to be the Seventh Messenger?
Mary Stollard was what most would call homely, plain with no outstanding features. Mary never had any man pay attention to her until she met Benjamin Franklin Purnell. Listening to him preach outside of the general store in her hometown she was immediately taken with him and he seemed to be with her. Walking her home he managed to ingratiate himself with her family. Spending time with him brought them close in many ways and when he decided to leave she informed him that she was pregnant never thinking he would offer to marry her. His goal was to join the Flying Rollers sect and become an invaluable member of this group. Arriving there they were welcomed by the members and the women helped Mary adjust to her new home. But, Benjamin’s attitude towards her radically changed and his reasons for wanting to be there come to light.
As we learn more about these people, their work and how they operate one man, Michael becomes anointed as their Prince claiming to be the Seventh Messenger. Benjamin appears to be faithful to this man but in reality he has other plans in mind and when Michael is arrested for molesting several young girls within the sect Benjamin and another man named Jacob try to enlist someone to defend him. With buildings being burned and fear placed within the compound, many families choose to leave but Benjamin does not. What happens at the trial will definitely surprise the reader and Ben’s betrayal of Michael will aid the prosecution as their leader is convicted and sentenced to prison.
The author flashes back to the present and to Mary as she continues to speak with Naomi. Benjamin was then accepted as the New Seventh Messenger with mixed feelings from the members. Mary of course states that she just went along with his revelation as he was her husband but you can tell she did not really believe him. But, Mary learned that she had powers of her own and soon learn that she did not have to follow everything he said. Leaving Fostoria, where they first met the Flying Rollers with other members they traveled the country to gather converts into their fold. They moved around as she states for many years and then returned to Fostoria where the rest of the remaining members accepted Benjamin as their leader.
In order to escape the scandal from the past he renamed the colony The House Of David where all members once again gave over their worldly possessions to the group, some worked for meager salaries and the rest went to Benjamin and the good of the colony. But, not everything went smoothly and something disrupted Ben’s church there. The year is now 1903 and The House of David has been created. Benjamin has decided to expand his horizons and used the money in the treasury to create an amusement park filled with a field for a baseball team, ice cream parlor, funds were used to publish his new book, and special train sets at beer station, ball field and zoo.
But, tragedy strikes the church and the end result it is destroyed when a fireworks factory explosion takes his daughter’s life at 14 and the congregation moves to Michigan where Benjamin and Mary are now called King and Queen. But, his lust for power and his thirst to control his members becomes too overwhelming for one woman named Daisy when he imposes a Virgin Law on all married couples, things change and loyalties are questioned. Even his own son needs Mary’s help to meet a girl he likes in Chicago in order to find someone for himself. Will Coy be able to live his own life or his father’s?
Added into the plot is Benjamin’s desire to create an inner circle around him of young girls the same way his predecessor Michael did. But, was he going to do the same thing? Remember applicants had to hand over all of the wealth and married couples could no longer have sex and meat was banned. But, since he was King he did not have to follow what he inflicted on others. The Inner Circle was composed of young girls under the age of 16 and they would be sent to work under the roof of Benjamin’s home until he would “purify them.” At 16 his thoughts were to put them to work in the compound and be prepared for purification by him. But, Mary meets a wonderful artist named John Assanti, he joins the compound when she buys all of his pieces at a gallery and agrees to let the House of David have exclusive rights to his work. But, there is much more as we finally meet Naomi’s mother Evelyn when she comes to live at the compound and from the start hates it.
Mary begins to question Benjamin’s motives and the deceptions run high and lie even higher. Throughout the novel Mary’s voice rings out loud and true and you understand her frustrations, her feelings of hate for her own husband and her loyalty to the members too. We finally meet Evelyn and learn more about the Inner Circle, Evelyn’s journey in the House Of David and hoping to bring some happiness into Naomi’s life.
This is an exciting insightful novelization of the creation and twenty plus years (up to the trial and death of Benjamin) of the House Of David. Mary is a terrific narrator who understood her late husband’s strengths as a charismatic leader who got people to believe and his serpent in Eden endeavors as she tells Naomi what happened to him and her mom hoping to bring some sunshine into the younger woman’s life. Character driven to include the commune, Carol Costa provides a deep twentieth century historical in which Mary’s salvation of the ruins of Eden and the City of David, still thrives. Evelyn had a menial job delivering eggs and in the afternoon enjoyed walking over to the park, which is where she met Coy.
Coy enjoyed his mother’s company and returned from Chicago after signing two new members to the baseball team and bringing his mother a special gift and sharing their thoughts on Benjamin’s activities. Evelyn caught Coy’s eye and he asked to have her assigned to the park to assist one of the woman.
The office staff lived in Diamond House and the girls in the Inner Circle were fed in the dining room off the kitchen. Nathan Sullivan hoped to see his wife and daughters in Benton Harbor. What he does to gain access to his children and his wife is startling as Mary once again meets with the owner of a gallery to sell some of John’s work to a gallery. Benjamin seemed to be in his own world and Mary lost her time with him and the thought of losing John was painful. What Evelyn reveals about Benjamin destroys many lives including Coy’s and the end result still remains to be seen as she threatens to spill everything to the authorities. Fast forward to the present and Mary tells Naomi of the celebration of her birth and the loss of another for Mary as she continues her story and Naomi tries to forgive her mother for all that she did not do for her as a child. The loss of Coy, the loss of Benjamin and the end result was tragic for not only Mary but for Naomi too as the story continues.
Evelyn was shrewd and she became an important member of the House of David taking many of Jacob’s roles. But, when Benjamin goes too far a father will seek the revenge so many others have sought. Benjamin is brought to trial, the girls from the Inner Circle married off and the end result will ruin many lives yet one young girl will come full circle with her past and just might learn the true meaning of forgiveness. The House of David was divided after Benjamin’s death. The City of David is where followers of Mary could be found and her life centered around Benjamin’s ideals but in her own way. What is the final fate of this colony and just where are some of them today, author Carol Costa has enlightened the reader and introduced us as she states on the cover to a “ man charming and cunning as the snake that convinced Eve to bite that apple,” but in some ways deadlier. Mary’s voice tells it all and Naomi relives it with her.
Reviewer: Fran Lewis
Fran worked in the NYC Public Schools as the Reading and Writing Staff Developer for over 36 years. She has three masters degrees and a PhD in Supervision and Administration. Currently, she is a member of Who’s Who of America’s Teachers and Who’s Who of America’s Executives from Cambridge. In addition, she is the author of three children’s books and a fourth that has just been published on Alzheimer’s disease in order to honor her mom and help create more awareness for a cure. The title of her new Alzheimer’s book is Memories are Precious: Alzheimer’s Journey: Ruth’s Story. She is also the author of Because We Care and Sharp as A Tack or Scrambled Eggs: Which Describes Your Brain? Her latest book is Faces Behind the Stones. She was the musical director for shows at her school and ran the school’s newspaper. Fran writes reviews for authors upon request for several sites. You can read some of her reviews on Ezine.com and on ijustfinished.com under the name Gabina. You can visit Fran at her website, blog, and book review blog.