Mainstream is a family suspense drama about three young couples whose five-year-old daughters disappear one August afternoon from a birthday party. Each of the couples wrestles with its own set of issues leading up to the disappearance. Mainstream finds each couple at a pivotal point in relationships and career choices when the disappearance occurs. Barbara has recently found out that her husband, Roy, has embarked upon an extramarital relationship while she’s been grieving a difficult miscarriage. Randa’s husband, Jonathan, has relocated his family to work for Roy, and is disillusioned by Roy’s work tactics and by his affair. Jonathan’s sister, Joella--who quit school years ago and has recently started to college--has just learned that her house is being foreclosed upon. How can she leave Luke, even if he is a liar and cheat, when he is hitting rock bottom?
Mainstream is, at the heart, a novel about marriage and the need for emotional and physical intimacy in marriage. Too often partners look outside their marriage to fill the void when one of these is lacking. I have seen many marriages fail inside the church, and too many betrayals of this nature.
I fear that avoiding the topic of intimacy may contribute to the problem. When people feel a void, they sometimes, sadly, divorce not only their spouse but also their relationship with God. Other couples lead separate, but distant lives within the same house for the sake of their children, finances, or even a misconception that God wants them to do so. I believe there’s a need in Christian literature to face these types of temptations as directly as we face issues like greed, alcohol, or violence. I’d like to think I could take a small step in that direction.
Objective and theme of Mainstream
All three marriages in Mainstream suffer, in one manner or another, from a lack of genuine intimacy, and the individuals within those marriages deal with their issues in different ways. When their daughters disappear one day, the women are forced abruptly to face their priorities and their choices.
The marriage of Randa and Jonathan is the strongest of the three, the one with the greatest promise for survival (not that any is without hope). Still, Randa withholds her deepest being from Jonathan. Even when they are physically intimate, Jonathan senses that Randa is not entirely present emotionally. Because of events in her past—an absent mother, a distant father, and an unfortunate relationship with a man—she believes herself unworthy of Jonathan’s love. Because we know that we are unworthy of God’s love, many of us struggle in the same way to give ourselves fully to him. Randa cannot open herself up emotionally to Jonathan for fear of being hurt or hurting him. Through the course of the novel, Randa comes to terms with what is missing in herself and finally gives herself to the man she so deeply loves.
In the marriage of Barbara and Roy, Barbara, like many women, is uncomfortable with physical intimacy. She tolerates it out of a sense of duty, but Roy senses her distaste and resents her for it. She is just beginning to overcome her discomfort when she suffers a heartbreaking miscarriage. After this, she withholds herself more than ever from Roy, and he turns to another woman. As Barbara recovers from her miscarriage, she grows to understand herself and her issues better than before, and to long for true intimacy with her husband. However, by the time she is ready, Roy’s betrayal may have gone too far. She also grows spiritually through this process.
In the third marriage, Luke and Joella have a solid physical relationship but lack emotional intimacy. As Joella commences to establish her independence as a student and a woman, she finds emotional intimacy with a younger man. As the novel approaches its climax, Joella comes to realize that this form of betrayal is just as serious as physical infidelity. Although Luke has many faults and has betrayed her in the past, can she justify leaving him for another man? First she must make a genuine effort to find the emotional intimacy she craves inside her marriage. She must also come to terms with the role she has played in allowing events to unfold, as well as the seriousness of her commitment to Luke.