For a duo that’s broken all the rules and forged through creative boundaries since they’re onset, it’s no surprise that the guys who comprised for KING & COUNTRY would write their first book in a manner that follows suit.
Unlike many books from artists that are either nonfiction or devotional in nature, Joel and Luke Smallbone have written a novel that offers an unflinching look into the horrific world of human trafficking. Priceless (buy) is gritty and compelling from page one, with nuances of redemption and hope that neither compete with or dilute the reality or proximity of this unspeakable epidemic.
From the onset, the main character, who will be played by Joel Smallbone when the film adaptation hits theaters this fall (instant visual!), meets with catastrophic loss that cripples his faith, compromises his sense of self and shoves him into a downward spiral in which desperation gets the best of him. Driven by the need to support his four year-old daughter, James unwittingly walks into the world of human trafficking that is as shocking to him as it is to the reader. As he navigates this seedy underbelly of society, he encounters multiple players that border on caricature, but ultimately bring this world to life for the reader.
While some scenes come across as a bit cliche, the Smallbones and co-writer Nancy Rue boldly tackle the difficult task of portraying the subject matter in a way that is graphic, but palatable. Perhaps even more difficult, they convey a message of redemption and grace unlike many other Christian novelists. The presence of Christ is not forced or manufactured. Moreover, it’s not touted as a quick fix from darkness to light. As the relationships between the characters unfold, so too does the relationship between the protagonist and a God he had long since given up on.
Overall, the book does an excellent job of coloring multiple aspects of James’ character and spirit. Others, primarily the female protagonist, could have stood a bit more depth and development. Be that as it may, Priceless compellingly delivers a message the Smallbone brothers have been touting since their debut just a few years ago—that women are priceless and should be treated as such.
Time will tell if the ensuing film adaptation can navigate the reality of this story without losing authenticity for the sake of not offending audiences. If it remains true to the book from which it is inspired, chances are, this story has the capacity to open eyes, awaken hearts and inspire action to combat this atrocity with integrity, pragmatism and faith in a God who determined the worth of every man, woman and child on the cross; without question or exception, He has deemed us all priceless.