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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing The Centurion's Wife Bethany House Publishers (January 1, 2009) by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke.

About the Authors

Davis Bunn is an internationally acclaimed author who has sold more than six million books in fifteen languages. His audiences span reading genres from high drama and action thrillers to heartwarming relationship stories, in both contemporary and historical settings.

Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include My Soul To Keep, and Full Circle. A sought-after lecturer in the art of writing, Bunn was named Novelist in Residence at Regent's Park College, Oxford University.

He and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write.

Janette Oke's first novel, a prairie love story titled Love Comes Softly, was published by Bethany House in 1979. This book was followed by more than 75 others.

After Love Comes Softly was published, Oke found her readers asking for more. That book led to a series of eight others in her Love Comes Softly series. She has written multiple fiction series, including The Canadian West, Seasons of the Heart, and Women of the West. Her most recent releases include a beautiful children's picture book, I Wonder...Did Jesus Have a Pet Lamb and The Song of Acadia series, co-written with T. Davis Bunn.

Janette Oke's warm writing style has won the hearts of millions of readers. She has received numerous awards, including the Gold Medallion Award, the Christy Award of Excellence, the 1992 President's Award for her significant contribution to the category of Christian fiction from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, and in 1999 the Life Impact Award from the Christian Booksellers Association International. Beloved worldwide, her books have been translated into fourteen languages.

She and her husband live nearby in Alberta, Canada.

About the Book

Janette Oke has dreamed for years of retelling a story in a biblical time frame from a female protagonist's perspective, and Davis Bunn is elated to be working with her again on this sweeping saga of the dramatic events surrounding the birth of Christianity...and the very personal story of Leah, a young Jewess of mixed heritage trapped in a vortex of competing political agendas and private trauma.

Caught up in the maelstrom following the death of an obscure rabbi in the Roman backwater of first-century Palestine, Leah finds herself also engulfed in her own turmoil--facing the prospect of an arranged marriage to a Roman soldier, Alban, who seems to care for nothing but his own ambitions.

Head of the garrison near Galilee, he has been assigned by Palestine's governor to ferret out the truth behind rumors of a political execution gone awry. Leah's mistress, the governor's wife, secretly commissions Leah also to discover what really has become of this man whose death—and missing body—is causing such furor.

This epic drama is threaded with the tale of an unlikely romance and framed with dangers and betrayals from unexpected sources. At its core, the story unfolds the testing of loyalties—between two young people whose inner searchings they cannot express, between their irreconcilable heritages, and ultimately between their humanity and the Divine they yearn to encounter.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Centurion's Wife, follow this this link.

My Wife's Review

The Centurion’s Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke is an enjoyable weaving of biblical accounts of the life of Christ with an interesting fiction of life in the first century. Historical details of everyday life and Roman and Jewish customs are fascinating—from the types of food and daily household chores to the strenuous life of a Roman centurion. The specifics bring reality to the story. The story takes places immediately before the death of Christ, His resurrection, and the exciting events leading up to, and including, His ascension.

Of particular interest is the way the authors intertwine the story of Christ healing the centurion’s servant with one of the main characters, Alban, and how that event is a catalyst in his life. The other main character, Leah, faces her own struggles as she works in Pilate’s household and learns of her arranged betrothal to Alban, the Roman centurion. Alban is commissioned by Pilate to find out what happened to the body of Christ while Leah is ordered by Pilate’s wife to spy on the disciples of Christ. As they separately seek answers for their superiors, they become drawn to the story of Christ and meet the biblical characters of Mary, Martha, Peter, Caiaphas, and Joseph of Arimathea.

While Leah and Alban grapple for acceptance of who Jesus truly was, there is also an emphasis on forgiveness—not only the forgiveness of sin that Christ offers, but also the need for us to forgive others who have caused us pain or hardship. Both Alban and Leah learn this lesson in different ways, and it is a valuable truth to learn. I appreciated the authors’ research and faithfulness to the accuracy of the biblical accounts, and the story opened up lines of thought on what the powerful event of Christ’s death and resurrection practically meant to the Roman centurion who was at the crucifixion, to the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb, and to the leadership in Judea at the time.

One last note. This is a wholesome Christian novel without any crude references, questionable subject matter, or "kissy scenes"—a rare treat indeed. For the traditional Christian readers among us, this is a prize not to be missed.

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