Last year I did a post titled People of the Book because I featured two books, one on the Qu’ran and one on the Jewish Midrash. You might remember that I chose that title because according to the Qu’ran, Jews and Christians are known as “People of the Book” since both faiths revere a holy text. Once again, I will be revisting that theme. One book, is a fictional account of a 500 year old Jewish Haggadah. The other book is a short devotional piece by a Christian on the Hebrew book of Habakkuk.
The first book was a piece of contemporary literature. I’ve been wanting to read People of the Book by former Wall Street Journal reporter Geraldine Brooks ever since her book was featured on NPR
about a year and half ago. And after seeing her in person during her
recent promotional tour knew I would have to read her book.
Mixing historical fact with fiction, Brooks tells the story of the 500
year old beautifully illustrated Sarajevo Haggadah, from its creation
in 15th century Moorish Spain to the recent aftermath of the Bosnian
civil war. Employing the same storytelling technique used in the the
1998 film The Red Violin,
Brooks takes us through the trials and travails of European history with
the Haggadah as the focal point. This is sweeping story is framed with
the narrative of Hannah, an Australian rare book expert, singleton and
This is not a great novel, yet it is much more
than merely a good piece of fiction. Without spoiling anything, there
were a number of plot twists. Some I saw coming and some, well totally
blindsided me. I also enjoyed Hannah’s tale much more than I expected.
This is an enjoyable piece of fiction. If you like old books, check out
People of the Book.
The other book was the result of one of those impulse grabs at the
public library. You know, even though you have way, way too many
library books sitting unread at home you still manage to grab one more
as you head out the door after returning your latest stack of recently
read books. Something about Kent Ward’s Have Faith Anyway:The Vision of Habakkuk for our Times
caught my eye so I checked it out and took it home with me. Ward’s book
is both short and readable. For a piece of Christian devotional
literature, I found it to be surprisingly scholarly. Using the Hebrew
prophet Habakkuk as his model, Ward takes on the age-old question of
why even good people suffer in this world. It is a question addressed
in the later part of the Hebrew Bible, especially in the books of Job
I think many Christians will like Ward’s
book. I actually found him to be considerably non-judgemental and
inclusive, even to the point where readers of other faiths or perhaps
even of no faith might find his book somewhat inspiring, or at the very least compelling. Of course for the more scholarly and agnostic side of this debate, be sure to check out Bart Ehrman’s recent book God’s Problem.