FORMER ATHEIST SHARES STORIES OF FAITH AND FORGIVENESS IN “HEARTS SET FREE”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Reconciling Science and Religion, Learning to Trust the Goodness of God in a World Beset by Evil and Pain
CAMAS, WA – Where would you turn if you or your loved one were given only two years to live? When Jess Lederman’s wife was diagnosed with ALS, they moved from Dallas, Texas to a small town in Alaska, where they read Christian classics and looked out on the glory of God’s creation. Yet, only a few years before, the two had been fervent atheists, smugly sure that God did not exist.
Lederman’s new novel Hearts Set Free (Azure Star, March 12, 2019) is an exploration of how people come to believe, wrestle with doubt, and sustain their faith in the face of tragedy and loss. It draws on his own life experience and extensive historical research.
In 1930, the rag-tag members of a tiny church in Las Vegas need a fighting man to shepherd them after their pastor is murdered. Might David Gold, a washed-up boxer and Bible-school dropout known as the Pummelin’ Preacher, be the answer to their prayers?
In the Alaska Territory, a native boy is on a quest to find his father, who has abandoned his family for a beautiful woman his mother vows to kill. Little do mother and son imagine that their journey will take them to a small town in Nevada where demons and angels walk among men.
In 2011, TV producer Tim Faber is determined to prove that mankind has no need of God, while his lover Joan Reed strives to regain the faith of her youth. They’re bound for Las Vegas to meet with a 99-year-old man who holds the key to a mystery they must solve—and answers that will forever change their lives.
Hearts Set Free weaves together three tales of men and women who journey from the darkness of doubt to triumphant faith and from the ache of loneliness to everlasting love.
JESS LEDERMAN graduated with a B.A. in music from Columbia University in New York, and a lust for expensive pianos drove him to an unexpected career in finance. As a young man, Lederman gained much that the world had to offer and became a gambler, womanizer, and arrogant atheist. Then the writings of Francis Collins, C.S. Lewis, and George MacDonald transformed his life, inspiring him to become a follower of Christ.
Lederman is the founder of the website The Works of George MacDonald and is well known worldwide to fans of the much-loved Scottish minister and novelist. He published over forty anthologies on the global financial markets during his business career and now devotes himself to writing fiction. Lederman remarried after his first wife’s passing and lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two young sons.
About the Book
Hearts Set Free
Jess Lederman | March 12, 2019| Azure Star
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9986030-1-8 | Price: $14.95
Christian Historical Fiction
In an interview, Jess Lederman can discuss:
His conversion from Evangelical Atheist to Christian
How Hearts Set Free reflects his personal life journey
His stance on whether faith in God can be reconciled with modern science
His approach to writing historical fiction, including the use of figures as Jack Johnson, Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, and Bugsy Siegel.
His work managing worksofmacdonald.com and George MacDonald’s influence on his writing
His efforts to raise money to find a cure for ALS, and how his late wife’s battle with the disease influenced his outlook and writing.
An Interview with Jess Lederman
To what extent does Hearts Set Free reflect your personal life journey?
The novel draws on some of the toughest and some of the most joyous moments of my life, and there are parts of me in several of the novel’s major fictional characters. I’ve been guilty of Tim Faber’s narcissism and cocksure atheism, and, while I only wish I had David Gold’s bravery and strength or native Alaskan Luke Noongwook’s purity, the doubts and fears that they wrestle with as they seek to understand the Father-heart of God have all been part of my own journey.
Is the title in any way a reflection of your own heart’s freedom?
I thought a lot about freedom while writing this novel, because what it means to me as a Christian is very different from how I had thought of it growing up in this country. I’d always thought that freedom meant being able to do whatever I want. The pursuit of happiness, right? But that sort of freedom is an illusion—we just become the slave of whatever desire whispers in our ears. One of the paradoxes of Christianity is that we are most free when we surrender our own will. At one point in the novel, Joan Reed—who is closely modeled after my late first wife—says to her brother, “What I wouldn’t give to call myself a slave of Christ!” I don’t yet presume to call myself a slave of Christ, as the Apostle Paul referred to himself, but that’s my goal.
What is the biggest point you hope readers will take away from Hearts Set Free?
Many of the characters in the novel engage in passionate conversations about Scripture, sometimes presenting very different points of view. They aren’t quibbling over matters of abstract theology, they’re pondering and debating the practical implications of how they ought to live their lives as disciples of Christ, how they can free themselves from whatever is holding them back from loving God with all their heart, strength, soul, and mind. I hope Hearts Set Free inspires readers to do the same—and that they find it a riveting story!
The question of whether faith in God can be reconciled with modern science features prominently in Hearts Set Free. How do you personally approach this conflict?
Two of my heroes are Georges Lemaitre, who was a priest as well as one of the greatest physicists of all time, and Francis Collins, the eminent scientist who led the Human Genome Project; he’s a devout Christian whose book The Language of God began my own journey to faith in Christ. I believe passionately that there is no conflict between faith and science—or rather, what conflict exists is based on flawed assumptions. For this reason, it’s a great tragedy when young people who find themselves called to a career in science are either made to think that they are betraying their faith or that they are fools for continuing to believe in God.
Was Hearts Set Free inspired by your knowledge of the Scottish minister and writer, George MacDonald?
When theological discussions entered into MacDonald’s fiction, he was not referencing abstract ideas but writing with all the passion of a man whose entire being was focused on devotion to the living God. I’ve aspired to do the same in Hearts Set Free, though my writing style is quite different from MacDonald’s. And certainly the character of Luke, the young native Alaskan, is my homage to the young heroes who populate many of the Scotsman’s novels.
Your novel features an eclectic mix of historical characters. What led you to do that, and what sort of research did that involve?
I read E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime as a young man in the 1970s and was enchanted by the way he blended a diverse cast of historical characters into his fictional tale. When I decided to set much of Hearts Set Free in the 1930s, it was a wonderful opportunity to do the same thing, joining larger-than-life figures such as heavyweight champ Jack Johnson, Georges Lemaitre, Amelia Earhart, and Bugsy Siegel with my fictional cast.
I spent the better part of a year immersing myself in historical research. Transcripts of oral histories of the men and women who worked on the Hoover Dam were a real goldmine, as were the autobiographical writings of Jack Johnson and a definitive biography of Georges Lemaitre which had only recently been translated from French.