I have to admit I am not much of a fan of inspirational fiction, so I was rather leery of reading Halos. But I decided to give the book a chance, for I had heard positive comments about the author’s storytelling abilities. The buzz was true; Heitzmann provides a smooth, suspenseful story, with interesting primary and secondary characters of strong faith, but with little preaching.
Alessi Moore has always had little in life; little education, little money and few family and friends. What she does have is a wonderful Mustang convertible, unrelenting faith in God and the ability to know good by seeing halos. It was the sight of such a halo around the sun, the experience of her first real snowfall and an almost empty tank of gas that prompted Alessi to stop in the nearest town, aptly named Charity. She has nowhere to go, no family waiting, and no job, so why not stop? It just may be the perfect place she has been looking for. But in Charity, things immediately go from being idyllic to being disastrous.
The town of Charity seems to be about as wonderful as a small town can get. Everyone goes to church regularly, the people are friendly, and there is zero crime. But things in Charity are a little too perfect and the people a little too blind to their own problems. When Alessi’s prized possession, her Mustang, comes up missing while she is paying for gas, the town does little to help her find the vehicle and claims she must be mistaken. But Alessi is not crazy, nor is she mistaken; someone stole her car and all that she owned within it. She suddenly has no money, no extra clothing, no place to stay and no way out of the supposedly ideal town.
Steve never planned on living in Charity, even though he grew up there with his father. He had a wonderful job and a beautiful girlfriend in Alaska. Then everything changed. His girlfriend left him and his father died, leaving his bookstore in Charity to him. Steve has made a successful business out of collecting and selling antique books, he goes to church, yet he has definite trust issues, especially with women. When Alessi shows up, he reluctantly agrees to give her a job, although he finds her story and her supposed innocence hard to believe.
But then things start to happen. First, Steve starts having feelings for Alessi, realizing what a great person she really is. Second, he realizes that Alessi may be telling the truth; someone just may have stolen her car. And someone is definitely out to get her, but who? He knows everyone in Charity and cannot imagine anyone doing something so horrible. Plus, there is the pact. A secret pact that the whole town agreed to, but of course he can’t explain the pact to Alessi. All he can do is try and protect her from whoever is after her, for no one else is going to do it.
Halos is an incredibly well-written novel, and even when nothing much is happening, it is still a fast, interesting read. Alessi is a charming, innocent and kind character you can’t help but like, and she makes you want to be a better person. Although Steve’s attitude toward women and his trust issues tend to grate, he is still a genuinely nice character who only wants to help. The descriptions of the town (the constant snowfall), the kind and loving characters, and the suspense and uncertainty make the book seem like a surreal dream that would make C.S. Lewis proud.
There were a few small problems with the book that may not necessarily detract from the overall appeal of the story, but they may obstruct the book from being a completely smooth read. Steve and his trust issues are a bit annoying at first, especially when he does not believe Alessi’s story, for he seems to be the one and only person in town who understands the evils that can arise from the pact. The townspeople themselves and their blindness to their own misdeeds become a tad frustrating at times, especially when they are preaching about God and goodwill. And lastly, although I believed in Steve’s feelings for Alessi, I do not feel like we have enough of Alessi’s internal dialogue to know if she felt the same way for him. She seems to like him, but she seems to like everyone. Nevertheless, Heitzmann is a masterful storyteller, bringing pacing and characters together into a perfectly woven storyline that does not preach but just makes the reader want to keep reading well into the night and, more importantly, makes the reader want to become a better person.