Thursday, April 13, 2017

Michael D. O'Brien's "Theophilos" - A Thumbs Up

I first encountered the writings of Michael D. O'Brien back in the 1990s when I was a reporter/editor for a Catholic newspaper. I was doing an article on contemporary Catholic fiction, and read several books, including his Father Elijah - An Apocalypse. I enjoyed the book, and a subsequent interview with him.

I later read Plague Journal and Sophia House, two other works by him.

I wanted to read more - but his books, while well-written, I found to be uncomfortable because of the issues he deals with (maybe too close to home?), and are not ones that lend themselves to quick reads. Because of work, and the theological reading I do as a Franciscan, I tend to seek shorter and lighter fare for personal reading.

That's on me, not O'Brien, who is a talented writer and artist (he even does the covers for many of his books).

But with my current interest in historically-based fiction I pulled Theophilos off my shelf.

I'm glad I did.

The book is O'Brien's imaginative take on the Theophilos to whom St. Luke addressed his Gospel and the Book of Acts. O'Brien makes him Luke's adopted father, a doctor who reads and studies Greek writers and philosophers extensively. When Luke begins to write about Jesus and becomes part of what Theophilos regards as a new "cult," Theophilos sets off for the Holy Land to meet with Luke and to explore this new religion, interviewing a variety of witnesses - from foes to true believers.

I won't reveal more, but I found the character of Theophilos believable and engaging, and the nature of the early Christian community described in the book is plausible.

I found myself wanting to keep reading instead of just reading a few pages at a time in spare moments.

I did have few quibbles with the last few chapters - they seemed a bit rushed, and Theophilos's struggles, while they made sense, seemed a little strained - but, as I said, those are just quibbles.

I enjoyed the book, and I recommend it. 

Pax et bonum

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