The Hidden Flame
by Davis Bunn & Janette Oke
Genre: Christian Fiction
Published 2010, Bethany House
Paperback, 394 pages
"Abigail loses everything and is left with little promise of a normal life. When she discovers the Messiah and joins his followers, she also discovers new meaning and purpose. Maybe she does have a future after all. But increasing persecution is scattering the burgeoning group "to the ends of the earth." And Abigail may have given her heart to the wrong man. Two suitors desire the lovely Abigail's hand in marriage. One is a successful Hebrew merchant and widower looking for a mother for his children. On the other side is the Roman soldier Linux, who is captivated by her winsome charm and could offer the sanctuary--maybe even the love--for which she yearns. But her heart has been captured by neither of these. Stephen, one of the leaders of The Way, has a character and a faith that move her deeply, but his outspoken preaching has marked him for assassination. Will her faith and courage withstand a heartbreak beyond comprehension? And then a glimmer of hope appears, one she never would have foreseen."
I loved this book as much as I loved the first one in the series, The Centurion's Wife. I felt I could easily relate to the doubts and fears that Abigail dealt with on an almost daily basis, even though her world is far different from mine. Her humility and compassion are something for me to admire and aspire to, and I sympathized with her feelings of helplessness both in her struggle to work and her imminent betrothel. This book helped me to understand better the differences between the Pharisees and the members of the Sanhedrin, as well as the political climate of that time. I cried twice while reading the book, first while reading about Peter's shadow healing the sick and mamed as he walked and then at the point of Stephen's death. Despite the runny nose, I count this as a mark of well-written literature.
It's exciting to see how all of the names I know so well from Bible scriptures are introduced into the plotline of the novel, and it feels like taking a fresh look at events that I have read and studied over and over again, such as what happened to Ananias and Saphira. I feel like I am looking behind the scenes to what happened in between the lines of scripture, such as the events that led up to Stephen's death, the daily tasks of the members of the fledging church, as well as how the Apostles went about their daily lives, manifesting miracles as easily as shaking hands but still never taking for granted what Power worked through them. I appreciate the delicate nature of interpreting these Scriptures in a fictional text, and while there are some I know that would consider doing such as verging on blasphemous, I feel that such works serve a purpose in the "grand scheme" and hold merit.
The Cover: A beautiful young woman, who can only be Abigail, stands in a non-descript alleyway. Though the cover is attractive in a general way, I would have appreciated something more to represent elements of the plot, such as Abigail's leg wound, some representation of the work she does, or even the images of the men vying for her hand in marriage. It's too bland and simple.
First Line: "Abigail quietly withdrew from the celebration and limped into the shadows' coolness."
This first line reads as if it is picking up directly from the previous book, while focusing on the new main character of the plot. While it is appropriate for those who have read the previous book, it does not allow the book to stand alone in its appeal to the reader. But it does raise questions, such as what is the celebration, and why is Abigail limping?
Favorite Quote: "This is not a question of becoming a follower so that you can claim a woman as your own. This is a question of your life. Do you wish the Lord Jesus to be central to all you are, all you do? Do you wish to be transformed? Do you wish to be healed on the inside?"
Read For: Pages Read Challenge, Biblical Fiction Challenge, The 2nd Challenge, Twenty-Ten Challenge
*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*