“The first thing I noticed was the blood. It was everywhere…It was so much darker than I thought it would be—almost black—until I touched him, and my hands came away red.” (p. 93)
Cori tells her story of the slaughter of a Christian village in Indonesia when a simple missionary trip turns into a fight for survival in Lisa McKay’s My Hands Came Away Red. Dating Scott had interfered with Cori’s relationship with God. She thought a missionary trip might put things into perspective for her. At boot camp she meets her team—Brendan the strong and trustworthy, Elissa the loving pacifist, Mark the unsinkable jester, Drew the droll and sensitive, and Kyle the passionate and brave. But at boot camp she just knows them as her team who tries to work together to get through the obstacle course on time and to smuggle M&M’s past Gary, their taskmaster chaperone, and his wife Diane.
On Ambon, Indonesia, they meet missionaries Tim and Allison, and Daniel, the pastor of the small congregation for whom they are going to build a church. His son, Mani, who is about their age, works with them on Seram building the church. At first, they have a lot of fun and find satisfaction in working on the church, but, as they listen to stories told by Daniel and Mani, they realize that Seram faces tension with its Muslim neighbor village. When an emergency calls Gary and Diane away, the teens remain behind to finish the church.
Then the unthinkable happens! Seram’s sister village attacks killing Daniel and his wife. As they rape and kill throughout the village, Mani takes up the mantle cast on him in his father’s last words of protecting the team and his four-year-old sister, Tina.
For the next three weeks, Mani leads them through the jungle and over the waters as the teens face terror, weakness, and death. He becomes a rock to them- Mani the heroic.
McKay frames the story by having Cori begin the book after the ordeal in Indonesia has ended. She tells the story so realistically at times that I had to remind myself this was a novel. It reads a lot like stories of the lost boys of Sudan. The teens’ emotions, quandaries, and interactions are compelling.
As Cori turns to the scripture for some explanation, Psalm 55, Joshua 1:9, and Proverbs 3:5&6 take on a new meaning to her. But McKay does her readers the justice of having Cori and the others still struggle over why God didn’t stop the murders and why things happened the way they did. Nor are they immediately free of all doubts and struggles. The trauma they face changes all of them, especially Cori.
Lisa McKay has written a compelling, powerful story on a subject too often ignored in fiction; the persecution of Christians. She shows the confusion, the lies, the dangers of vengeance upon vengeance that destroys a people. And she does it well, so well that it doesn’t read like fiction. -- Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews.com
Cori signs up to take a mission trip to Indonesia during the summer after her senior year of high school. Inspired by happy visions of building churches and seeing beautiful beaches, she gladly escapes her complicated love life back home. Five weeks after their arrival, a sectarian and religious conflict that has been simmering for years flames to life with deadly results on the nearby island of Ambon. Within days, the church building the team had constructed is in ashes, its pastor and fifty villagers are dead, and the six terrified teenagers are stranded in the mountainous jungle with only the pastor’s teenage son to guide them to safety. Ultimately, Cori’s emotional quest to rediscover hope proves just as arduous as the physical journey home.