The Chair is a feel-good novel about restoring one’s faith in oneself through embracing Christianity. Rubart takes a handful of decent but damaged individuals and exposes them to various temptations and challenges, along with evil from an unexpected source, and leads them—and presumably us, his audience—to the conclusion that happy endings are just waiting for us, if we’ll just believe!
A sweet old lady dumps an ancient chair on young struggling antiques shop owner Corin Roscoe, and strongly hints that it was built by Jesus Christ. When a young sick child appears to magically heal after sitting in the chair, Corin starts to believe in miracles, and when his life-long claustrophia disappears, he is nearly convinced. This is the point at which Corin starts to hope that if he can just get his paraplegic brother Shasta to sit in the chair and heal, that his world will be right again. Corin is a danger junkie, and is responsible for pushing his reluctant younger brother into a ski jump ten years earlier that paralyzed him for life and for which Corin has neither been forgiven, nor forgiven himself.
Corin’s terror of water, stemming from a near drowning as a child, doesn’t leave him no matter how many times he sits in the chair, however, and Corin is sorely tempted when a charismatic evangelical preacher pressures Corin to sell him the chair so that he can cure himself of his various “weaknesses of the flesh.” Corin could finally get out of debt if he takes the offer, but something doesn’t smell right about the preacher and he backs out. Break-ins, beatings, even death threats, follow. Corin’s attempts to talk about the dilemma he faces with his new girlfriend are rebuffed; Tory is fiercely anti-religious and has no sympathy for the crisis Corin is going through. The little old lady comes back into Corin’s life and turns out to have a special relationship with him. The action escalates, turns violent and even deadly, but the bad guys eventually lose and the brothers, well, take a wild guess?
The writing isn’t terrible, but it is a bit sophomoric, and I guess the fact that I finished the novel means the plot kept my attention, at least long enough to find out whether Corin and the chair ride off into the sunset together. What I can’t figure out is why, if the author wanted to proselytize, he went and chose as his “hero” a young man suffering enough mental anguish—claustrophia, hydrophobia, a severe guilt complex, adrenaline addiction, and more—to fill an entire mental ward. Perhaps Corin is supposed to represent “Everyman,” but does he have to be afflicted with Everything?