BEFORE BETHLEHEM by James J. Flerlage

BEFORE BETHLEHEM

KIRKUS REVIEW

A historical novel set on the eve of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Set in early first-century Palestine, Flerlage’s historical fiction debut is narrated by James, the son of Nazarene carpenter Joseph, who, after his first wife died, went on to wed a young girl named Mary and have with her their more famous son, Jesus. Young James tells the story of normal small-town life spiked with social and political unrest simmering just under the surface. Tension among the Jewish people, their religious leaders and their imperial Roman overseers lurks behind the scenes Flerlage effectively dramatizes. Although many moments are quiet and quite evocative—“He swished some [water] around in his mouth to clean the raisins out of his teeth and spat it on the ground”—the larger-scope bitterness is never far away: “It seems that every time our people protest or revolt, the Romans end up crucifying, spearing, burning, boiling, and ultimately killing anyone in their way, including innocent people.” Joseph and James travel to the great Temple in Jerusalem, the heart of both Jewish faith and Jewish unrest, and all along, Joseph displays intelligence, impatience with Roman rule and a wry sense of humor. “How do you know if a man is really speaking on behalf of God?” James asks Joseph, to which he chuckles and replies, “I have no idea, but if you ever meet a prophet, would you introduce me?” Flerlage fleshes out the story with excellent pacing and dialogue, and he doesn’t fail to deliver what many readers will be expecting: Joseph’s meeting Mary—“Her voice was like the songs of birds in the morning, her words like cool winds on a sunny harvest day”—their marriage and the babyhood of James’ half brother, Jesus. Readers who’ve enjoyed religious fiction from Taylor Caldwell and Francine Rivers will particularly enjoy.

A warmly personal portrait of Joseph, earthly father of Jesus. 

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0989828109
Page count: 292pp
Publisher: DreamScapes Publishing Ltd
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2014