When this book first came in my mailbox I was convinced that it was a book that I couldn’t like on a topic I wasn’t interested in reading about. And so it sat around on my bookshelf for quite some time as I read through other review copies on my list. When I finally got myself in the mood to sit and read this I was very surprised about it indeed.
This book takes you to a very long time ago, to the ancient Carthaginian world of Augustine, the great Christian theologian. The story is told from the eyes of his concubine, a woman whose name is lost to history but whose impact was strongly felt on the life of the man she considered her husband.
From the very first the language in this book sucked me in, it is stunningly beautiful and lyrical and has a loneliness and hunger to it that compels the listener to hear her and know her story. The world in which the woman lives is nothing like our own- and yet her story is so familiar in the storytelling world. It is one of falling in love with someone not of her own class but being loved in return and dearly cherished. It is one of the journey of life and the struggle of living side by side with someone on a journey they don’t know the end of. It is one of being ripped apart when the odds can no longer pretend they are in your favor.
The woman’s story is told in the strong brush strokes of a hard and sometimes harsh life. There is childbirth, and death, life and love painted in strongly worded descriptions. And there are also the soft stirrings of her own heart as she seeks to understand the world around her and follows alongside of Augustine and is a part of his philosophical work.
I was very struck by all of this story and several times found myself in tears. I could spend a lot more words here trying to explain the details of this story but I think it would only cloud the issue. While I don’t agree with all the events that take place in this story I could not help but be moved by it all the same. This book doesn’t really fit into a box that I can neatly check as being good or bad. The writing is amazing. The story that is told is amazing. But it is also one that pushes me out of my comfort zone. The writer’s notes at the back of the book help to clear up some of the historical perspective and context and I did find that very helpful in understanding this book.
In the end, I would recommend this book to someone who was looking for something very different from the standard Christian fiction fare. I would not recommend it for younger teen readers, I think there is too much in here that needs an older eye to discern. But I’ll tell you that if you do read it, it will change you, and that I guess is what all books are meant to do.
Final Rating: 4
I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.