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BOOK REVIEW
Tiger in the Shadows
by Debbie Wilson
"Tiger in the Shadows" (TIS) is an articulate genre novel that weaves an intricate tapestry of industrial espionage, Christian persecution in China, romance and familial love into a broad and daring narrative. From its chillingly realistic beginning TIS grips readers to its pages as it races to its dramatic conclusion. The concise narrative never strays from its main objective, which is to accurately portray and bring to light the ongoing persecution of China's underground Church. Wilson's vivid depictions of imprisonment and the torture inflicted on Christians, some of which are based on true stories, are heart wrenching, meticulously researched accounts of the brutality and suffering our brothers and sisters in China are forced to endure for their faith in Christ.

The story itself revolves around Stefanie Peng, a young Chinese American woman, and a promise she makes to her grandmother to find her grandfather who, as an Evangelical Pastor, was imprisoned for his faith during the Cultural Revolution. Stefanie goes to China as an English teacher in Beijing University and slowly discovers the dangerous web of intrigue in which she has entangled herself. She becomes the center of a search for a mysterious underground itinerant preacher named "Brother" and a pawn in a game of international espionage. Cast around Stefanie is a variety of characters, yet none of them are really who they appear to be! As a mystery novel, TIS is indeed well written. Elements of the unbelievable are written in such a way that they seem entirely plausible and the story itself races from page to page leaving the readers slightly breathless towards the end. Yet the true power of TIS is its underlying message and intent.

The contextual background of TIS is an uncompromising, factual exposition of China's persecution of Christianity that should leave no one in doubt. Wilson herself defends this assertion in the Afterword where she writes:

"'THIS IS JUST FICTION, ISN'T IT? I mean, is this what life is really like for Christians in China?' It is difficult to know how to answer those who have asked these questions after reading the manuscript for In the Shadow of the Tiger. Yes, this is fiction in that Stefanie, Troy, Qili, Chongde, and the other characters we meet do not exist. But yes, this story shares the actual challenges faced by Chinese Christians."
Throughout the novel Wilson is careful to accurately depict the widest possible range of the multifaceted difficulties Chinese Christians are forced to endure. These include the assault on the Church by the government, the infiltration of the Church by the mysterious Eastern Lightning Cult, and ways Chinese Christians have responded to the growing refugee crisis that as evolved as North Koreans have poured into China in the search for food and work. Wilson also takes care in sensitively describing the prison conditions of those thrown into the Lao Gai (re-education camps) and the torture which Christians, and other inmates, are forced to endure.

Despite the afflictions described in the novel, TIS is a story of hope, victory and above all things, faith in a sovereign God. Wilson has been careful to intersperse TIS with emotive and sensitive moments. Moving accounts of house church meetings, large gatherings of underground Christians, personal testimonies and undying endurance in the face of extreme opposition are seemingly accurate portrayals of the enduring and inspirational faith of the Chinese saints. Wilson's description of a flourishing underground house Church movement in China reflects the reality of what seems to be an explosion of Christianity.

The backdrop of Wilson's novel provides readers with an excellent introduction to the current status of Christianity in China. At the end of the book Wilson has listed a short bibliography of books that would provide further information on Christianity in China and Christian persecution in general. She also lists a number of web sites that provide news and information on Christian persecution around the world. (Christian Monitor is also listed) These resources are highly recommended and I personally would encourage Christians to review them and to recommend them to other Christians in their Churches so that they too can be informed and become aware of the current situation of Christians around the world.

To a world that seems to have forgotten or overlooked the continued repression of basic human rights in China, TIS is indeed an effective wake up call. Seduced by huge commercial markets and unparalleled investment opportunities the world at large does not seem to care that Christians, along with other religious minorities, continue to be persecuted. Recent evidence of this oppression abounds. China Aid recently reported (11 June, 2004) that 100 evangelists had been arrested. A few weeks earlier Xu Shuangfu, the founder of a large underground Church denomination (Three Grades Servants), had disappeared and at least one member of his Church, Gu Xianggao, was beaten to death. Religious persecution in China is a reality that should not be forgotten. TIS is a timely reminder of the current persecution.

TIS is an excellent first novel and a welcome departure from contemporary Christian fiction. Wilson should be commended for her willingness to write on such a difficult and largely neglected topic. TIS is a testament to bravery and courage. It is also a testament to the endurance of our Lord's love for his children and a reflection of a part of the true Christian life, which is to share in each other's burdens and to care for those who suffer on the frontlines of their faith. It is a highly readable and accessible novel that will both convict and inform. Wilson's love and compassion for the Chinese Church is evident throughout the pages of TIS. It is our prayer that her love for her brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith would be infectious and that this novel would motivate many others to intercede for those who suffer for bearing the name of Christ.

-PKS (27-Jun-2004)