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Foodie Lit
Brian Ray Brewer. The Face of God

There are times that a book sticks in your mind. After judging The Face of God for The Next Generation Indie Book Awards, I thought of it often. Anguished and inspiring Martin Drake, a conniving, corrupt, drunk, genius of a sculptor raises himself up to begin to create real art again. Pushing him is a strange and inspiring priest, Father Manoel from Brazil, who despises Drake and his art. As the novel progresses, we see that the sculptor and the priest are opposite halves that slowly are revealed to be parts of each. Ironically and irrevocably, they are drawn to each other, inspiring the artist to find passion again in his art and the priest to find purpose in helping the artist regain his faith. The priest thinks, “Perhaps that’s why I am here…Perhaps I’ve been sent to help this man.” And the sculptor thinks, “When he fought against this priest he felt as if he fought against himself.”

This unlikely partnership creates a dynamic tension in the novel, supported by eloquent prose, turbulent inner conflicts in both characters who unite in the mission for Drake to sculpt the face of God. There is great intensity in the characters of Martin Drake and Father Manoel. They have dark aspects to their lives and they are driven by faith, different for each.


Author Brian Ray Brewer commented to me, “I think they were always alter-egos of a sort.  I suppose from a Jungian perspective, they both needed to interact with each other to fully integrate, and their interaction is what drives this story.”


There are many parallels to the various partnerships in the novel, from the different artists and individuals who work with Drake, to the relationship of Drake and Father Manoel to the interaction of human and God. These interactions, many intense and angry, drive the novel.

Interacting with the divine is a critical part of this story.  Yet this interaction begins before the story, when the author was at a low point in his life, out of work and praying for guidance in a Brazilian Basilica, lined in windows of blue glass. Brian shared, “I knew that I needed something to occupy my time to avoid slipping even further. The story pretty much came to me at once, and it flowed once I started writing it with the characters each defining themselves and leading me forward chapter to chapter. I think I finished the first draft in six to eight weeks. I consider it an inspired work, a gift.”


While Brian is not an artist, he allows us, the reader, to become part of the process of sculpting. His background in engineering gave him an understanding of the complex engineering required in casting large objects in bronze. His fascination with art and the artistic methods helped form the character of Drake. His own emotional state also gave Drake an intensity in this crossroad in both their lives.  

In Genesis, we read that man is created in the image of God (b’tselem Elohim, in Hebrew). What is this image? Drake and Father Manoel discuss the topic frequently.  Brian continued his explanation of how he came to this unusual subject for his novel also from the Hebrew Bible. “I remembered in Exodus 33:20 was written that the Lord said,  ‘You cannot see My face, for  man shall not see Me and live.’  But in other places, it’s written that Moses converses with God, face to face, like a friend.”  While Moses is the only Biblical person to be given this vision, Brian began to conceive of an artist struggling to find if he too could see God face to face and then sculpt this image, as difficult as it might be. He told me that this proved to be life changing for both of these characters.

At the novel’s end, this concept is transformed when Drake sculpts God in the image of man, a prism of light reflecting the Judeo-Christian concept of God and back from man to God. Light and darkness are motifs in the novel, from sculpture to characters to inner convictions.


Brian’s message of struggle, resolution and faith is elegantly conveyed. “I pray that this book can be of value to all who seek God and seek direction….Don’t we all worship the same divine presence?  Don’t these spiritual systems share a common Divine root?”


Brian lives on the water in Brazil with his family and thus his portrait of Father Manoel’s Brazilian roots is realistically drawn. For both of them, I have made Pao de Queijo, a Brazilian cheese puff, delicious and extremely popular in that country. Easy to make and their small size make is even easier to eat many!  When I suggested this recipe to Brian he commented, “Pao de Queijo would be wonderful. I should have asked Padre Manoel to have given some to Martin when they were together.  He would have certainly enjoyed it!”  Another favorite restaurant dish of Martin's is Trout Muniére and Asparagus. While I don't usually do 2 recipes per review, I couldn't resist the trout--a favorite of mine as well!

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