A devout yet deeply imaginative tale that focuses on the Apostle Paul.


A Time To Act

A debut novel fleshes out one of the greatest stories ever told.

Jesus is the foundation on which the New Testament is built, and it is his life story that both initiates and fuels the Christian Bible. Yet there is an argument to be made that the Apostle Paul—even more than Jesus—is the motor that drives Christian Scripture. No one writes more books in the Bible, and no one else is more responsible for both interpreting and shaping the spiritual messages of the early Christian church. Yet readers know little of the life of this biblical figure beyond a few scraps, and so many tantalizing questions remain. Who was this dynamo? What was he like? What drove the man who drove the growth of early Christianity? These and other questions propel this fictional extrapolation of the life of Paul—a 600-plus-page opus that puts flesh on the Bible’s bare-bones biography of this hero of the first-century Christian church. Readers get a glimpse of the author’s method in his retelling of the Scriptures’ first mention of the young Paul. In the book of Acts, Paul is present at the stoning of the Apostle Stephen—often considered the Christian church’s first martyr. In Acts, Paul is little more than a footnote, a “young man” at whose feet the madding crowd dumps its coats. In this novel, however, Shaul (Paul) is the instigator, the one who brings charges against Stefanos (Stephen) and who heaves the first stone. When the others throw their garments down, they do so as “a token of protection, ritually and publicly attesting to the chief accuser’s truth.” This is a clever move—and an ingenious reading of Scripture—but it also makes the young Shaul the captain of his own fate. Throughout this story—and others Knight (A Time to Hear, 2016) makes from whole cloth—Paul is an intriguing, potent, thoughtful force of nature, and readers will likely find that they cannot avert their eyes. The author leavens his thickly textured account with equal parts invention and respect. And best of all, he is true to the biblical original without slipping into a too-slavish devotion. Knight’s talent dazzles but never blinds.

A devout yet deeply imaginative tale that focuses on the Apostle Paul. 

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5144-4031-5

Page Count: 618

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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