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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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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