Christian historical fiction that excites while it evangelizes.



A historical novel offers a vindication of the Christian faith packaged as a political thriller.

Christians are familiar with the story of Paul, the apostle responsible for writing much of the New Testament. Paul’s road to faith was as unlikely as it was dramatic: He was an enemy of Christians before Jesus intervened, miraculously turning him into the staunchest defender of the early church. Quist’s (Abigail, 2018, etc.) new book presents a similar scenario. Its title character, Sirius Merestius—or “Christianus,” as he is called by “the people of Rome”—is the emperor’s chief investigator in charge of persecuting Christians. Duty-bound to follow Caesar’s orders, he must seek out and eliminate threats to the empire. But Christianus quickly realizes that most believers are “honest, simple, hard-working people” who pose no real danger; he even comes to admire them. So he is put in the tricky situation of trying to save innocent men and women of faith while carrying out his investigations. All of which is not to say that no dangers lurk in and around first-century Rome. The Sicarii—a Jewish splinter group that opposes the occupation of Israel—are willing to use violent tactics to pursue their ends, and their terrorist plots leave Christianus with his hands full and get the ball rolling in this rousing piece of devotional fiction. Quist’s plotting is both intricate and carefully structured; he ably manages his large cast of characters, and the taut narrative races along smoothly, like a sled down a hill. The only thing that slows the progress is the author’s occasional tendency to overwrite. Take, for example, the following: “The voice was soft, gentle, almost inaudible, but Sarah’s dreams faded in an instant and her eyes opened, her mind instantly wide awake.” “Soft,” “gentle,” and “almost inaudible” are all roughly synonyms; one of the three would do the trick. And to write that after Sarah’s dreams “faded in an instant,” she was “instantly wide awake” is repetitive. Readers will get it: She woke up quickly. A strong editor would have cut lots of this deadwood, leaving a more streamlined—and more satisfying—story. Yet the extra words don’t do too much to dampen the tale’s drama, and the novel remains a gripping read.

Christian historical fiction that excites while it evangelizes.

Pub Date: April 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64258-776-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Christian Faith Publishing, Inc.

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2019

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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