The Centurion's Wife
by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke
Genre: Christian Fiction
Published 2009, Bethany House
Paperback, 378 pages
"Janette Oke has dreamed for years of retelling a story in a biblical time frame from a female protagonist's perspective, and Davis Bunn is elated to be working with her again on this sweeping saga of the dramatic events surrounding the birth of Christianity...and the very personal story of Leah, a young Jewess of mixed heritage trapped in a vortex of competing political agendas and private trauma. Caught up in the maelstrom following the death of an obscure rabbi in the Roman backwater of first-century Palestine, Leah finds herself also engulfed in her own turmoil--facing the prospect of an arranged marriage to a Roman soldier, Alban, who seems to care for nothing but his own ambitions. Head of the garrison near Galilee, he has been assigned by Palestine's governor to ferret out the truth behind rumors of a political execution gone awry. Leah's mistress, the governor's wife, secretly commissions Leah also to discover what really has become of this man whose death--and missing body--is causing such furor. This epic drama is threaded with the tale of an unlikely romance and framed with dangers and betrayals from unexpected sources. At its core, The Centurion's Wife unfolds the testing of loyalties--between two young people whose inner searchings they cannot express, between their irreconcilable heritages, and ultimately between their humanity and the Divine they yearn to encounter. "
This book was a wonderful surprise in both its accuracy in utilizing the Biblical account, as well as its mastery in enlivening the recorded events pulled from the Bible by weaving in the fictional story of Leah. I have read these parts of the Bible more times than I can count, but this novel made the events fresh and exciting, as if I were living in the time period and watching them first hand. It made me realize as I read it how much I take for granted in having the completed Bible, which those first believers did not have. I could relate quite easily to some of the characters, especially the portrayal of Mary Magdalene. I also especially loved how the authors described the scene at Pentacost, as well as the allusions to the wedding in Revelation using Leah's wedding plans.
This book is the first book in the series Acts of Faith, which I like because not only are all the loose threads not accounted for, but also because I would love to see other Biblical characters portrayed by these authors, such as Paul. I look forward to continuing the series with the next book, The Hidden Flame.
This is how Christian fiction should be written, in my humble opinion. The beliefs and doubts of the characters are real and believable - even to the point of looking messy and contradictory. Their faith hasn't been softened and molded by political correctness, too afraid to quote more than a few fee-good verses from Psalms or even use the name of Jesus. A Christian is not a one-dimensional type-cast description, and neither should the characters in a Christian fiction novel be.
Cover: A woman of indeterminate age is dressed in Roman garb and looking out over Roman architecture to sea. While I am not crazy about the backdrop - a Judaean setting would be more appropriate - I do like the depiction of the main character, Leah. Her clothing fits her Roman heritage and the expression on her face is wistful, as if wishing for something she can't have.
First Line: "Usually Leah followed the path briskly from the main kitchen to the baths."
The authors' first attempts to create a setting for the story do nothing to pull the reader into the plo or propel him or her to continue reading. This definitely could have been done differently without any loss to the setting.
Favorite Quote: "My Lord was alive. Alive! There he stood before me. The knowledge of my forgiveness washed over me again. I was free. Free from my sin. From my wretched past. I could see it in his eyes - and then he spoke my name. Just my name. But it told me everything I wanted to hear."
Read For: Support Your Local Library Challenge, Pages Read Challenge, Biblical Fiction Challenge, 1st in a Series Challenge, Celebrate the Author Challenge, New Author Challenge