Friday, December 25, 2009

Unafraid by Francine Rivers

Unafraid cover

by Francine Rivers

Hardback: 213 pages
Publisher: Tyndale
First Released: 2001

Source: My personal library.

Back Cover Description:
Tamar. Rahab. Ruth. Bathsheba. Mary. Five women whom God chose. Each was faced with extraordinary--even scandalous--challenges. Each took great personal risk to fulfill her calling. Each was destined to play a key role in the lineage of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

With her hallmark touches of brilliant prose and gripping characterizations, Francine Rivers tells these women's stories in a way you've never heard before. Remaining true to the facts given in Scripture, she brings these long-ago women to life and lets them speak to us in new and life-changing ways.

In Unafraid, when God spoke, Mary responded in simple obedience. This humble girl would bear the long-awaited Messiah. She couldn't know that raising the perfect son would break her heart and change the world forever.

Unafraid was an enjoyable, thought-provoking historical novella about Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. It sticks to the facts given in Scripture and then fills in the information not given in the Bible accounts with the author's ideas about what Mary and Joseph were like and so on. Readers might not agree with how she chose to 'fill in' the story or the personalities she gave Mary, Joseph, etc., but it's one possibility.

The pacing was good, and the characters were complex and interesting. It's obvious that Francine Rivers did a lot of historical research in order to get the historical details right, and the details brought the events alive in my imagination.

However, some of the minor historical details (which may not have been known or been easy to discover when she wrote this) weren't correct, like she has Mary unable to study the Torah with the boys when, in the first century, she actually would have been allowed. She also used a non-standard (which may confuse some readers) but well-researched view (apparently based on "The Star of Bethlehem" by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D.) of when Jesus was born and how old he was in relation to the coming of the wise men, their going to Egypt, etc.

There were also a couple continuity errors in some minor, non-critical details, like Mary sleeping on straw one moment and on hay in the next.

At the end of the book, the author included a nice six-part Bible study on the life of Mary. The story obviously had strong Christian content, but I wouldn't call it preachy except for a statement obviously aimed at Catholics at the very end. Actually, there were several things about how Mary was portrayed which Catholics might not approved of.

There was no bad language and no explicit sex. Overall, I'd recommend this novella as well-written, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Mary sat alone beneath a mustard tree, her hands covering her face. Did all brides feel this way when the contracts were signed, gifts given, and futures sealed by the will of others? She trembled at the prospect of life with a man she hardly knew, other than as a man admired and befriended by her father upon his arrival in Nazareth three years ago.

"He's of our tribe, Anne," Joachim had announced after meeting Joseph at the synagogue. "And descended from the royal line of David."

"Is he married?" Her mother cast an eye toward Mary.

Thus had plans for her future been set in motion, for her father was quick to find out that Joseph was looking for a wife from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of David, a young woman of unquestioned virtue and faith. Mary knew their ambitions. Mary's older sister was married to a Nazarene, and her parents hoped to marry their younger daughter to another man of their own tribe. And of course he must be devout, kind, and able to provide a good home for her and any children she might give him. So they invited the carpenter to their home frequently, and Joseph was receptive to their hopes.

"Why did he not seek out a young woman in Bethlehem?" Mary had asked her mother once.

Read the rest of chapter one.

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