Murphy, Paul. The Thirteenth Apostle: A Novel. Mobile, AL/Southport, NC: Evergreen Press, 2004. 216 Pages. Paper with CD-Rom curriculum guide. (Two copies received.) $11.99. www.paulmurphybooks.com (N)
Bond, Douglas. Hostage Lands. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 2006. 235 Pages. Paper. $11.99. www.prpbooks.com (N)
Two short novels incorporate fact and imaginative fiction in this review.
Our copies of the book came with a CD-ROM with curriculum guide for the Christian day school teacher. It comes with age-appropriate and subject-specific recommendations for tying the novel to a school curriculum.
I found the plot plausible. Had I the opportunity to give input before the book's initial release, I might have recommended a rewrite to reset the timing of Gamaliel's interaction with the apostles to after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ.
That said, I beg the author's indulgence as to why this review was so long delayed. My pastoral and school duties had to take precedence over book reviews while I was wrestling with a medical issue. Then, I had surgery. As I have recovered over these summer months, I've had time to catch up on book reviews. And to rethink what I should say.
"And a little child shall lead them." Isaiah 11:6 came to my attention as our summer congregational "Jesus in the Book of Isaiah" Bible study has influenced by Bible reading and pastoral preparation these recent months.
"And a little child shall lead them."I think that's this author's point (in addition to the Lord's and Isaiah's reference to Jesus, Isaiah 9:6). Gamaliel's faith, trust, and leadership puts the grown-ups to shame.
I welcome a sequel. How's that for encouragement, Paul Murphy?
We have already added Hostage Lands to our reading list at our Classical Lutheran Grammar school. Douglas Bond is a gifted author.
What a fun read! I loved the adventure, kept guessing at what would happen next, wondered at how Neil's story would end, and overtaxed my Latin skills.
This will be a wonderful book to add to your summer reading list (or school year curriculum).
I am wary about trends I see in Christian fiction today.
It seems to me that publishers are putting out more books about historical events than books that provide ancient or modern texts (Tacitus, The Declaration of Independence, etc.). Classical education desires to put primary texts in the hands of our teachers and students. Related to this was the downplay of "great men" and "great events" in the history department of my university in favor of narrative history of common people. I left my math and history double major after receiving my Bachelor's Degree to go to seminary largely because Jesus was so left out of HIStory.
Further, I wonder at the long-term wisdom of creating new fiction designed for young people with young people as the main characters. Song for worship has been made supposedly "kid friendly" in recent centuries. I see that as an historical and long-term danger, for too many children grew out of "cotton candy" song and fell away from the Church rather than having their theological diet enriched by the best Christian psalmody, hymnody, and canticles sung everywhere and always by Christians young and old.
I like and will use both books at our school, a statement intended as high praise and encouragement to both authors and our readers.
The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.