A historically exacting but somewhat-overwritten portrait of the times of Jesus.


In this historical novel, a Roman soldier is torn between his loyalty to his emperor and his growing adoration for a religious leader he’s charged with tracking: Jesus of Nazareth. 

Shortly after T. Bracia Octavio’s appointment to the Praetorian Guard, his fellow soldiers brutally murder him and his wife in a politically motivated act. He leaves behind an infant boy, Octaviate; he’s rescued by his paternal grandfather, Terullus, who flees with the boy to Jerusalem. By the time Octaviate reaches his late teens, he’s bristling at Terellus’ discipline, so he spontaneously enlists in Caesar’s legions. At 19, he marries 16-year-old Decima, a comely but violent woman; Octaviate tells her that her “lovely head incubates the brain of a cobra.” After 10 years of torturous marriage, he files for divorce, but she exacts her revenge by falsely accusing him of treason—a charge for which he must stand trial. Cline’s (The Portrait Postmortem, 2009) realistically depicts the political climate of the day in a corrupt Roman republic that harshly rules over its Jewish subjects; the Romans’ fears of insurrection are catalyzed by the charismatic preacher, Jesus, whom some Jews see as the messiah. Octaviate is moved by the plight of the Jews; he befriends a Jewish family and takes in their young boy, Jason, after Roman soldiers execute his parents. Octaviate is tasked with keeping a watchful eye on Jesus but becomes increasingly convinced he may be whom his disciples claim. Cline’s story lacks tautness, as too many subplots distract from the main story. Also, her prose can be melodramatically overwrought at times: “Cornelius Marcus, my good woman, is the spawn of a Syrian harlot who mated with an asp which was begotten of a jackal.” However, her mastery of the historical details is impressive; in particular, she provides a compelling account of Barabbas, a lesser-known figure from the Gospels. 

A historically exacting but somewhat-overwritten portrait of the times of Jesus. 

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4497-3528-9

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2019

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Stunningly original and altogether arresting.


An exquisite critique of patriarchal culture from the author of All My Puny Sorrows (2014).

The Molotschna Colony is a fundamentalist Mennonite community in South America. For a period of years, almost all the women and girls have awakened to find themselves bloodied and bruised, with no memories of what might have happened in the night. At first, they assumed that, in their weakness, they were attracting demons to their beds. Then they learn that, in fact, they have been drugged and raped repeatedly by men of the colony. It’s only when one woman, Salome, attacks the accused that outside authorities are called—for the men’s protection. While the rest of the men are away in the city, arranging for bail, a group of women gather to decide how they will live after this monstrous betrayal. The title means what it says: This novel is an account of two days of discussion, and it is riveting and revelatory. The cast of characters is small, confined to two families, but it includes teenage girls and grandmothers and an assortment of women in between. The youngest form an almost indistinguishable dyad, but the others emerge from the formlessness their culture tries to enforce through behavior, dress, and hairstyle as real and vividly compelling characters. Shocked by the abuse they have endured at the hands of the men to whom they are supposed to entrust not only their bodies, but also their souls, these women embark on a conversation that encompasses all the big questions of Christian theology and Western philosophy—a ladies-only Council of Nicea, Plato’s Symposium with instant coffee instead of wine. This surely is not the first time that these women are thinking for themselves, but it might be the first time they are questioning the male-dominated system that endangered them and their children, and it is clearly the first time they are working through the practical ramifications of what they know and what they truly believe. It’s true that the narrator is a man, but that’s of necessity. These women are illiterate and therefore incapable of recording their thoughts without his sympathetic assistance.

Stunningly original and altogether arresting.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-258-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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