Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Between the Savior and the Sea / Bob Rice

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Christian Fiction

Approximate word count: 110-115,000 words

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A popular speaker and blogger, Bob Rice teaches on a variety of religious subjects at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, where he lives with his wife and six kids. For more, visit the author’s website.


A retelling of the life of Jesus, based on The Bible, through the eyes of Jesus’ apostle, Simon (later known as Peter).


In the email submitting this book for review, the author mentioned that we didn’t have any Christian Fiction at that time and made the following point:

My hope is that the book stands on its own no matter what faith background you have. A good story is a good story.

I think this is called an act of faith.

In light of this, it seems fair that I give a disclaimer before my review. Although raised in an extremely religious environment, as an adult I developed issues with all organized religion. If forced to claim membership in any religious organization, it would be the pseudo-religious Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Although I’m the first to concede that religions are a positive force in providing people with a moral and ethical framework in which to live their lives, there are other ways to do that. In my observation, religion also has a downside that frequently includes war and hatemongering. However, I also believe everyone has the right to practice their religious beliefs, as long as doing so doesn’t negatively impact anyone else. I also have a tremendous amount of respect for those who follow their beliefs, insofar as they are positive.

I’ll start with the obvious. If I was able to separate this story from its origins, the genre would be something different, maybe supernatural or paranormal. But making that separation isn’t realistic for me. I doubt it is for many people. The tale, at a high level, is set in stone. Most people will know much of the story, including how it ends. (Jesus dies, for those who don’t know.)

However, Rice’s purpose appears to be two-fold. First, telling the story from a new perspective, that of Peter. Looking at anything from a different point of view can provide new insights. Second, to make the story more accessible without oversimplifying like some of the bible storybooks for children tend to do. I thought he succeeded with both of these. The language is modernized, making it much easier to read. I did laugh when one character told another that “I’ve got your back,” but mostly the language was easy to read, modern, without being slang filled. By arranging the story chronologically, it is much easier to follow.

I’m sure there are spots some biblical scholars would nitpick. I don’t know where those would be, but I have faith that they are there. It would depend on the scholar. Rice freely admits in the afterword that in a few instances he played fast and loose with chronology. He sometimes fills in gaps for a more complete story and in many cases different biblical accounts of the same incident are contradictory. Also, biblical scholars and different Christian denominations can’t agree on all the specifics. However, the big picture, I think Rice got. For believers or the curious who find reading the bible hard going, Between the Savior and the Sea is an excellent compromise. For those who have read The Bible, the new viewpoint and easier reading might be something you’d be interested in reading. For non-believers, decide for yourself. After all, some say this is The Greatest Story Ever Told. For those who haven’t read it yet, sorry about the spoiler.

Format/Typo Issues:

Contained a moderate number of typos and other proofing errors.

Rating: **** Four stars

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