Last Reviewed on September 18, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 656
Robert Whitlow explores the importance of Christian faith in the face of challenges from those who try to subvert church beliefs to further their own agendas. The List refers to a group that espouses Christian values while really valuing material well-being and seeming anchored in occult practices.
Attorney Renny Jacobson is thrown for a loop when his otherwise healthy father dies suddenly of a massive heart attack, leaving him little more than the older man’s investments in a mysterious company, the Covenant List. The remainder of the estate, valued at about eight million dollars, goes to a medical school. In addition, his father’s attorney, with whom he meets in Charleston, South Carolina, presents a list of names, all people that neither of them knows. Several are names he recognizes from their area of the Southeast, known as the Low Country.
From his father’s safe deposit box, Renny obtains a cassette tape that his father had prepared for him, explaining what the Covenant List is and claiming that his share in it is far more valuable than the remainder of his father’s estate. This List is composed of the heads of his and ten other prominent Southeastern families, whose wealth dates back to antebellum times. On the tape, his father explains that the group formed near the end of the Civil War, aiming to protect their remaining assets.
Pooling a significant percentage of its remaining resources, this group smuggled gold and hard assets out of the Confederacy to safe havens in Europe. The eleven male heads of the families also entered into an agreement obligating their firstborn sons to honor a mutual commitment to contribute to and to receive the benefits of the funds sent overseas. Since that time, your forebears have remained true to their word. You are the fifth generation of Jacobsons privileged to take his place on the list.
Swearing him to secrecy, his father’s tape further states that there are other, intangible but important benefits to this membership.
Renny is soon invited by one member, Desmond LaRochette, to a meeting of the group. In his father’s home, in the locations indicated in the tape, he finds the relevant documents regarding the group’s 1863 establishment. From other documents, he learns that his father had a Swiss bank account; after contacting the bank, he also learns that LaRochette is the required cosigner who can authorize his access.
When Renny travels to Georgetown for the meeting, he meets Jo Johnston, daughter of the last member of the List to die—also of a massive heart attack. Relieved to find another person to confide in, Renny also feels powerfully attracted to her. When he shows her some of his documents, he is also surprised at negative elements in her reaction. She is concerned about the Christianity of the List members, which is not assuaged by their professed belief in a Supreme Being.
Don’t take me wrong, Renny, but words and substance are not always synonymous. It’s not where they’re buried or the sincerity of their motivation that counts. I’m just wondering about the results, or as the Bible says, the fruit of their lives after entering into this agreement.
When they attend the meeting, thinking they will both be sworn in as members, Renny is inducted, but the men vote not to include Jo because she is a woman and the original charter applied only to firstborn sons. Renny feels a powerful sensation as he is sworn in, unlike any previous experience, which he can only associate with descriptions of out-of-body experiences.
Renny had never had an out-of-body experience.... Not until now. On the way to the head of the table, he became detached from himself and saw his body standing before LaRochette. The air seemed heavy, almost thick, and Renny’s physical activities were on autopilot. He numbly watched himself repeat the words intoned by LaRochette....
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