Overall, this book was a good read. A basic page-turner, with good pacing, believable characters, and well thought-out plot. It is interspersed with a leap back in time to the first century, when the Apostle Paul was in prison before his execution. This portion of the story is told primarily from Luke’s perspective, the physician who penned the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. These 1st century portions were the ones that ended up moving me to tears at the end.
I found Jenkins’ fictionalization of Paul believable, and even moving. Paul never lost the exasperating characteristics of his personality, remaining human, and never glorified, but you could see his change of heart. I felt his conversion on the Damascus road was rushed over somewhat, then again, perhaps that is because it is recounted in only a basic way in the Book of Acts. Perhaps the author felt that nothing needed embellishment? Still, I would have liked to see more of Paul’s post-conversion thought and prayer life before Ananias was sent to heal him. What a fascinating speculation that would be…
In my opinion, the plot, while well thought-out, was predictable. There were no unexpected twists in it, neither was there much suspense. The ends are tied up a little too neatly, until the end, when a very obvious hole is left open for the sequel (to be released in 2014, titled I, Paul). I found the character development for any of the characters beyond Augie & his father somewhat lacking, and there wasn’t much emotional attachment for me to any of them. (A quick little note – who on earth would shorten Augustine to Augie other than his mother??? It makes no sense to me that any grown man would allow himself to be addressed by anyone with a childish moniker like that. August, maybe. Gus is even more likely, but Augie? Seriously?)
The only characters I found myself truly caring for were Paul & Luke. That’s it. The modern storyline felt superfluous. There was less character development in the 1st century plot line, but their characters are already well-established in the Greatest Book. Their story is real, and my heart was drawn to it. I almost wish Jenkins had simply written a fictional account of Saul/Paul’s life, conversion, and ministry. What an undertaking that would be!
So, all in all, I liked it. It was a decently enjoyable read, and I’ll likely read the sequel when it comes out. It isn’t a remarkable book, though.