An engaging novel of a Jesus who’s very much man as well as God.

The Man Nobody Knew

A novelized synthesis of Jesus’ story in the New Testament.

Whitworth’s debut takes the four Gospels and reworks them into an I, Claudius–style historical novel, told from the viewpoint of the Apostle John. Readers first meet John as a teenager living in the Galilean fishing town of Capernaum, and the story follows a straightforward chronological line as he describes events that will be familiar to readers of the Bible. He meets a charismatic itinerant preacher named Jesus and follows him, along with a steadily increasing number of others, including such famous figures as Matthew, Peter, and Judas. They and their master experience such events as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, his walking on water, the feeding of the multitudes, prophetic teachings, the entry into Jerusalem, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. Through it all, Jesus himself is alternately very direct (“God’s kingdom is no longer coming; it is here now, standing right in front of you”) and steadfastly aloof—hence the book’s title, referencing Jesus’ remark that “Nobody knows the son.” But readers conversant in the New Testament will find John’s (and Whitworth’s) Jesus to be significantly more approachable than the one in Scripture. This version tells his Apostles, “You are shocked by what I said about my family yesterday, and you deserve an explanation”—and then actually gives a straightforward explanation, free of cryptic parables. This Jesus even clarifies some of his more baffling comments, as when he flatly declares that nothing a man takes into his mouth can defile his body, and then offers an elaboration found nowhere in the Gospels. Whitworth’s reconfiguration can cause problems regarding fidelity to the source material, but it does show a thoroughly human Messiah and provides a rich portrait of his friendships with his Apostles. Readers of Christian historical fiction will find it thought-provoking and immensely enjoyable.

An engaging novel of a Jesus who’s very much man as well as God.

Pub Date: May 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5127-3994-7

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2016

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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