Monday, June 18, 2012

"Love's Touch Heals": A review of Nikki Arana's The Next Target

I recently took a road trip across the country with my children, the oldest of whom will be off to college in the fall. While making that long trip out to Washington, DC, I drove through the flat plains of America’s heartland - Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and into Tennessee. It was a rare opportunity for me to crack open a book, and I was lucky enough to read Nikki Arana’s The Next Target, a Christian thriller set to be released this summer.

Austia is a young, Christian widow who is determined to devote herself to her ministry of helping Islamic residents of her California community find jobs and overcome bigotry. Though she lost friends during 9/11 and her husband was murdered by fundamentalists because of his devotion, Austia is convinced to forgive and love, as the teachings of Jesus encourage. Though many cannot understand her dedication, she is determined to do what feels right in her heart. All seems to be thriving, until suddenly a young Islamic woman who escapes her conservative family is hunted for it. She is found murdered, and Austia begins to fear that her fundamentalist family will be coming after her next because she had converted the young woman to Christianity. When a strange Islamic man takes a job as an interpreter, she wonders if he has been sent to watch her. As the powerful and righteous patriarch of Austia’s young friend focuses in on her, she begins to truly fear for her life. As the drama unfolds, Austia confronts bigots from both Islam and Christianity, she faces fear from both religions and learns a most valuable lesson - that there are extreme emotions on both sides.

This was a fast-paced and intricate story that held me riveted at all times. The author’s knowledge of the realities of Islamic life made the story very realistic and at times almost frightening. It was very easy to sympathize with the young Islamic women who were trapped in the traditional household but wanted to escape. You also could respect their culture despite the suspicion and sometimes hatred with which the ment of the family viewed Austia. The loyalty and dedication that the main character, Austia, had for both her faith and her friends was heartwarming and touching. In the midst of these emotions, you are held captive by the drama and suspense of the story. Will Hussein succeed in his evil plotting, is Zaki hunting Austia, and will Fatima be able to escape her abusive husband before he kills her? Most pressing: will there be another round of terrorist attacks inside the US? As the questions unfold, the author skillfully leads you down an intense road of tension, fear and excitement that keep you turning pages eagerly as you wait for the stunning climax to unfold.
Austia is a fine, modern woman with a heart of gold and backbone of steel, and her very human altruism will touch your heart and leave you cheering for her all the way. Though she is being hunted, she refuses to cower. This is a terrific story of hope, love and the triumph of good over evil that everyone can enjoy. I really enjoyed this story as I was driving across America’s heartland. While serving as a reminder that religion in any extreme is dangerous, for an edge of your seat thrill coupled with a story of hope you can’t go wrong. I would recommend this book for anyone who loves a good suspense and is interested in a well thought-out and well-written story that will not disappoint.

For more information about Nikki, please check out her site:

Twitter: @nikkiarana & @David_C_Cook

Twitter Hashtag: #nexttarget