Perhaps no character in literary history has gone as quickly from cherished hero to reviled villian as Franklin Whitestone of Douglas Whaley's novel, Imaginary Friend.
Franklin Whitestone finds himself an unwitting hero after surviving a terrorist bomb attack in a crowded stadium. After television crews film him playing a critical role in the safe escape of himself and other victims, he is instantly transformed into a national celebrity. Franklin is is flown in high style to New York to appear on a live call in-show to recount his experience. The interview starts out well, but when a caller ask if he was praying to God for strength during his ordeal, he scoffs and proudly boasts about not having an "imaginary friend". He goes on to ask the caller why God should be credited for getting him out of the mess, but not blamed for the terrorist attack happening in the first place. The studio erupts in shock and outrage.
Before he understands what has happened, Franklin finds him the subject of hatred, anger, reproach and pity. Everything he holds dear is threatened by his new noteriety, and a dangerous religious extremist - one of the same men who helped free the Franklin from the stadium - sets out to "save him" a second time.
If you have ever suffered social rejection or for your non-belief, Imaginary Friend will haunt you. Franklin's detractors spout familiar religious criticisms of atheism, but Whaley's charcters are complex; they have minds and flaws of their own, and don't always respond in the way we wish they would. The story is thrilling, heartbreaking, at times infuriating,and always hard to set down.
Tune in this Sunday when Douglas Whaley joins Atheists Talk to do a live reading from Imaginary Friend, answer questions about the book, and we'll discuss the question of whether there are times when it's appropriate or not to come out as an atheist.
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