BOOK REVIEWS · Historical Fiction

LUTHER AND KATHARINA – Jody Hedlund (2015)

lutherHe was an Augustinian monk, transformed by the sovereign grace of God. His newly regenerated heart beat with passion for Jesus. His mind was devoted to the sacred Scripture. This former Roman Catholic turned Protestant rebel was mightily used by God to influence a nation and eventually the whole world for the sake of Christ’s gospel.

But one of the key themes in Luther’s life was the other love of his life, Katherina Von Bora. This fascinating love story emerges in Jody Hedlund’s new book, Luther and Katharina. This work of historical fiction captures the pathos of a woman who left the “safe” confines of the abbey. Safety was a relative term in the 16th century abbey, since the Roman Catholic church was plagued by corruption, heresy, abuse, and sexual sin.

Luther and Katharina underscores the heavy works-based orientation among the faithful. At one point in the story, one of the former nuns asks with chagrin, “Do you ever wonder if we should have stayed?” “What if God is displeased with us? What if He’s punishing us for forsaking our vows?” She continues, “What if we’ve thrown away our best chance at salvation.” Such a sentiment not only characterized the church in the 16th century. It is still a part of the warp and woof of the Roman works-based system.

Additionally, the book captures the tension between genders in a 16th century context. The author does a formidable job of fairly representing a male dominated culture, “without horns and without teeth,” as Luther might say.

Hedlund is a colorful writer, with an ability to turn a phrase and guide the imagination of the reader in the right direction. She demonstrates a good working knowledge of Reformation culture, including the priesthood of believers, cardinal doctrines such as justification by faith, and the repudiation of celibacy.

Luther and Katharina is a terrific historical read designed to awaken a thirst for authentic relationships which are grounded in gospel reality.

Highly recommended!

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS · Historical Fiction

EMPIRE’S END – Jerry Jenkins (2015)

“I preached Christ and Him crucified, and many more became empirebelievers.”  This sentence summarizes the essence of the book, Empire’s End by Jerry Jenkins.  It is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that fueled the resolve of Paul the apostle.  It is the gospel that motivated his every action.  It is the gospel that he lived for.  That same gospel, he died for.

Empire’s End is historical fiction.  Anytime an author sets out to capture a historical setting in a novel, he walks a fine line.  On the one hand, this genre allows a certain flexibility and enables the writer to utilize what some have referred to as a “sanctified imagination.”  This is entirely appropriate so long as the imagination stays within biblical bounds.  On the other hand, this genre poses difficulties for some readers have difficulty separating fact from fiction.

Jenkins does a good job of painting a portrait of Saul of Tarsus, the religious zealot who is miraculously regenerated on the Damascus road.  He shows the tension that exists in this newly converted man as he faces people he hated only moments before.

Jenkins develops several biblical characters and fictional characters that keep the story moving and help show the cultural context that Paul ministered in.

While the novel reads easily and holds the attention of the reader, there is a propensity to get caught up in the story while forgetting the actual historical context.  Whether that is the fault of the author or the reader is left for the jury to decide.

Overall, Empire’s End is an enjoyable read.  The intent is clearly to magnify the great God as his purposes unfold in the life of his servant, the apostle Paul.

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review. 

3.5 stars

BOOK REVIEWS · Historical Fiction

THE AUSCHWITZ ESCAPE – Joel Rosenberg (2014)

rosenbergRazor-wire fences. Vicious dogs.  Soot filled chimneys.  Gas chambers.  Piles of rotting corpses.  The stench of human flesh.  These are only a few of the images that make up one of the many death camps devised by the Nazi’s during World War II.

Joel Rosenberg offers readers with his first attempt at a work of historical fiction; a novel which tracks Jacob Weisz, a young Jewish man from Berlin.  Weisz is captured in a failed attempt to liberate a train heading for Auschwitz.

While Weisz endures the hellish confines of Auschwitz, he also develops close friendships with several people; a twist that offers hope in the midst of adversity.  The title gives away the main plot line which leads Weisz away from Auschwitz.  But his escape is not self-focused.  Rather, his departure is for a greater purpose – the liberation of masses in the death camp.

Once again, Rosenberg pens another award-winning novel; a novel that is filled with pain and realism, interesting characters, and historical tidbits that will lure many readers to the primary sources for more information.  The author directly confronts the problem of evil and presents hope that is grounded in the biblical worldview and centered on the cross of Christ.

4.5 stars