Everybody loves a story, so the infamous “they” say. I suppose that is true, as long as it’s a good story, with compelling characters, interesting plotline and mostly satisfying ending. Good stories are harder to write than most people think, and as a reader, bad stories are even harder to read. Here’s what I know from 20 years of selling books-people often disagree over whether a book is a good story.
That makes reviewing fiction difficult for me. Some fiction readers are set on a genre and that is all they read, others dabble in whatever sounds good. Some love history based stories, others want only contemporary stories and then the sub-genre; romance, or suspense, or political drama…
I just finished a book that was a good story, easy read, annoyed me at the end a little and made me a little biblically twitchy. Does that make you curious?
Bread of Angels is by Tessa Afshar, a writer who is new to me. Set in the first century A.D, the book opens in the land of Thyatira, where we meet the protagonist, Lydia. Yep, it’s a biblical fiction novel, a genre people either love or hate. More on that in a moment. Lydia is a young girl of 16, living with her father who is well known producer of the purple dyes that were highly prized in that time. After suffering trickery at the hands of a manipulative wealthy merchant, Lydia, who has learned all her father’s trade secrets, sails for Philippi to start a new life.
As a novel, I liked the story. It was a fast read, the story moved at a good pace and it wasn’t weighed down with endless descriptions or banal dialogue. My only real disappointment with the story was a romance that seemed tacked on so there would ultimately be a happy-ever-after. I enjoyed the character of Lydia as she made hard choices, faced fears and found faith. All in all, a quick and fun read.
If you’ve read Acts 16 you’ve read all there is to know about Lydia. This book paints a back story of her life that is purely a work of the author’s imagination. From the reason for her move to Philippi to how she came to faith, even her nationality, none of this is found in scripture. This is where I got a little twitchy. Obviously, you can’t write about Lydia and not write about her conversion and hospitality to Paul. The author has a Masters of Divinity and knows her subject, but she’s not writing commentary. This portion of the book was okay, threw in a miracle not found in scripture and used Paul’s presence as part of a climactic scene in Lydia’s life that is pure fiction. Again, it’s a novel, but for some biblical fiction fans I know this kind of stuff is a line that can’t be crossed. Historical novels should be historically correct, the thinking goes, and biblical novels should be biblically correct. Purists who hold to this view won’t enjoy this book.
But I did. Not as much as Lynn Austin’s Chronicles and Restoration series, which I found exceptionally well done and have read more than once. Next time I’m in the mood for an easy fiction read I wouldn’t pass on one of the authors other novels. If you like biblical fiction with an emphasis on the fiction, you’ll enjoy Bread of Angels.
Read well friends!
Tyndale House Publishers, 2017
Bethany House Publishers, 2005
Bethany House Publishers, 2013
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