by Joanne Otto (Fastpencil Press, 2013)
This new novel, aimed at the young adult market but readily enjoyable by adults, plunges the reader into the bustling word of first century Jerusalem. It’s also the world of Mara, a teen-age Jewess, who in her struggle to find and realize her full identity and completeness, has an experience millions might envy. She meets and talks with Yeshua, known to us as Jesus the Christ.
With her older sister just married and suitors already visiting her father, Mara tries to find wiggle room to continue her Torah studies as long as possible before taking up the inevitable duties of home and hearth. Her inner turmoil is only a microcosm of the ferment in the city. Yeshua speaks the truth to error, stirring the population — now swollen with crowds of pilgrims — to a higher and higher pitch. Many believe; many others long to believe but know more certainly than they know their own names that should Yeshua spark a riot, the Roman overlords would clamp down so hard that the rest of the Jews’ remaining liberties would be swept away overnight. What to do?
Mara’s brief contacts with Yeshua, and after his execution an earth-shaking interview with his disciple Mary of Magdala, change Mara’s life in ways she could not have foretold.
I read this book myself with great interest (the author is a long-time friend), and have since shared it with patients and residents of a Christian Science care facility. Everyone at the facility is by choice a Bible scholar to some degree; many have dug in deeply. Otto’s scholarship is a ready match for the serious Bible student, yet simple and clear enough to engage the beginner.
At 88 pages, the book is snugly packed with its story within a story. The Appendix contains chapter by chapter questions that can facilitate use of the book by a reading group. There is also a glossary of first century Jewish terms.
Recommended reading and sharing!