While sometimes offering a confusing tangle of voices that lack individual features, this tale delivers a fresh and...

JOHN!

EPISODE ONE - AD 27

A young John the Apostle leaves his home to follow Jesus in this debut biblical novel.

In Bruno’s tale, John, teenage son of Zebedee, has almost wrecked his father’s fishing boat in a foolhardy night voyage with his friends Andrew and Philip. He travels with Andrew from Galilee to Jerusalem to offer doves as a sacrifice for having offended his family. They meet a very young (and fictional) Hezekiah, who helps sell Andrew’s donkey, then tells them of a new prophet who is preaching and baptizing at the Jordan River. Andrew and John travel with friend Nathanael (of Cana) to hear this prophet and are baptized by John the Baptist, who gives John a commentary scroll on Isaiah to study. After encountering new devotees and assisting with the baptisms, John meets Jesus. Seeing his healing powers, John agrees to serve as his lowest servant, to the consternation of the teen’s socially conscious mother. But the position affords John a day-to-day working relationship with the teacher, and Jesus promises him the scroll of Joshua to study. Bruno separates his chapters with exact dates and times (“Thursday 6 March AD 27, 8:00 AM”), meant only to be illustrative. He also gives greater voices to women—Jesus’ mother, Mary, and Concordia, Simon Peter’s wife—than they have in Scripture. Endnotes illuminate prophesies and historical details. The author deftly exposes the bureaucratic, face-saving hypocrisy of Herod, the temple priests, and the Pharisees and Sadducees, which gives proper context for Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman and his expulsion of the moneychangers. Other scenes, such as Jesus’ baptism and John the Baptist’s arrest, are not dramatized, and the wedding in Cana water-into-wine miracle is anticlimactic. With so many characters, the dialogue seems disembodied at times. And a map with dates would have enhanced Bruno’s timeline. Still, this clever and ambitious reboot of the Gospels succeeds in humanizing these historical figures, and the author’s skillful use of modern slang flows naturally.

While sometimes offering a confusing tangle of voices that lack individual features, this tale delivers a fresh and well-researched fictionalization of the assembling of the Apostles from John’s point of view.

Pub Date: June 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4908-8332-8

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2017

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

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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Stunningly original and altogether arresting.

WOMEN TALKING

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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