Wow. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a thriller like Friend Me. We had an ice storm hit this week, so schools were closed, and I actually found time to devote to reading. From the very first page, I was hooked and couldn’t put this novel down.
When I first heard about Friend Me, I was intrigued because the author spent over 30 years as a missionary in Asia. I wondered how he would handle the whole topic of virtual friendships — this affects all of us, especially our children. I know of homes that have been destroyed because of “online relationships,” and I’m constantly telling my kids not to share private information with strangers. This book is centered on the theme of Philippians 4:8:
whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report,
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,
think on these things,
What happens when a person deviates from pure thinking as set forth in the Bible? It all starts off so innocently.
The contemporary story takes place in Indiana, and involves a complicated web of three main characters: Scott Douglas and his wife, Rachel, and a mysterious software developer with a dark past named Melissa. We read from all three points of view, so it’s interesting how the author gets into each character’s mind and shares what they’re thinking.
On the surface, Scott and Rachel have the perfect life: he has a good job with an investment firm, and Rachel stays home full-time to care for their two young children. But below the surface, trouble is brewing. Scott gets called into the office of his boss because his company’s wealthiest client is unhappy, and it’s up to Scott to turn his account around. This propels him into the world of risky trading, and his stress level increases because he may lose a huge amount of money, as well as his job.
Meanwhile, since Scott works long hours and is hardly ever home, Rachel finds herself starving for deeper friendships. While exploring online, she discovers the “Virtual Friend Me” website that offers her the chance to create her own virtual friend, someone who’s always available to listen, unlike her husband.
After she tells Scott about it, he decides to check out the website to see what his wife is up to. He too is drawn into the idea of having a virtual friend, and he steps into a landmine of trouble when he requests a “female” for his friend. This leads to intimate conversations, and Scott begins to spend every spare minute chatting with his virtual friend instead of spending time with his real-life friends and family.
Behind both Rachel and Scott’s creations is Melissa — the brilliant designer who helped start the company. When she created the software, she secretly programmed it with a search parameter to find her ideal match, but she’d forgotten to specify his marriage status. Too late, she thinks Scott is the perfect man for her, and she’s determined to be with him. She craves Rachel’s life as Scott’s wife and the mother of his children, and she begins to stalk their home and look for ways to get rid of her.
Because Scott and Rachel both share openly with their virtual friends, Melissa knows every detail of their personal lives … when they’ll be home, the code of their garage door, what’s in their medicine cabinet, everything. Melissa reminded me of the creepy mistress Glenn Close played in the 1987 film, “Fatal Attraction.”
The plot gets scarier and scarier and is filled with so many twists and turns I couldn’t stop reading! I love the author’s subtle message — that we as a society must be careful not to cross the lines that lead us away from what is true, pure, honest, and lovely. This book would be a fantastic springboard for discussions in a book club, and it even contains questions and additional activities in the back for that purpose.
On his Christian Suspense blog, author John Faubion explains how he got the idea for this book, while sitting in a software meeting:
While we were talking, something occurred to me that had not been done yet. Something really revolutionary. There were bits and pieces of it all over the world wide web, but no one had yet brought them together yet, not in the way I was thinking. Consider the whole Facebook phenomenon. How people want to be âfriendedâ and âfriendâ other people. What a lot of people really want is a true friend. Someone they can pour their hearts out to. A person who is totally trustworthy, and who would keep every confidence sacred.
The truth is, there are not many like that!
But what if. . . you could design your own friend. Not a real person, but just as good as real. A virtual person. You would pour into your design all the traits that you thought were most important â trustworthy, friendly, discreet, constant, forgiving. Just think about your list. When you were done, youâd have the perfect friend …
I told my wife about this. . . that maybe Iâd get some people together and weâd do it. Make such a product available and see if we could make it work. I got back an unequivocal, âNO.â When she explained why, she made sense…It would really get weird, and pretty fast. So she said to me, âWhy donât you write about it? Just donât really do the software.â
The result? Friend Me.
If you visit the author’s Christian Suspense website (which is so interesting!) you can actually have a conversation with a virtual friend programmed by the author. Yikes! I also loved reading Faubion’s blog post about how he got his first book contract. I really can’t believe Friend Me is his first published book! It’s published by Howard Books, the Christian division of Simon & Schuster.
If you’d like to read it, you can enter to win a free copy in the upcoming giveaway!
One winner will receive:
- A brand new Kindle Fire HDX
- Friend Me by John Faubion
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 22nd. Winner will be announced February 24th on John Faubion’s blog.
Don’t miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by John’s blog on the 24th to see if you won.
About the Author:
John Faubion spent many years in Asia as a missionary with his family. Since returning to the United States, John has worked as a senior software developer for a large appliance chain. He teaches an adult Sunday School class and enjoys writing and driving his 1949 Packard automobile. John lives near Indianapolis with his wife, Beth, and their daughter. He is still fluent in Chinese. You can learn more about him and his writing at his website, Christian Suspense.
Blogger’s Note: I received a copy of this book, complimentary, from Litfuse.