Elaine Ricker Kelly’s biblically inspired novel, Forgotten Followers: From Broken to Bold, follows the lives of women whose encounters with Jesus change their lives.
Burdened by shame and anxiety, Mara, wife of Clopas and sister-in-law to Jesus’s mother, Mary, fears drawing attention to herself. With little education and having suffered trauma from gender discrimination and sexual abuse, she has learned to put up walls to protect herself.
Joanna, wife of Herod’s business manager Chuza, is of both Hebrew and Greek heritage and struggles to fit in, keeping her mixed heritage a secret when possible. She also suffers from a parasitic disease, as does her son Adnan.
Other female characters appear as well, drawn to Jesus for his empowering teachings, compassion and healing. They follow him despite prevailing political and religious dissension.
As the narrative unfolds, it develops these women’s stories, particularly Mara’s and Joanna’s. Mara is empowered by Jesus’s teachings and grows in confidence, gradually learning she’s valued and not responsible for the sexual abuse she endured in her youth. Meanwhile, Joanna, healed by Jesus of her physical ailments and insecurities, becomes a devout disciple and a strong voice of love and acceptance.
The novel includes intriguing details about the Jewish and Middle Eastern cultures of the time, as well as the conflict between Jesus and religious and political leaders. Themes of racial discrimination, sexism, childhood trauma, fear and anxiety, body image, self-esteem, and brokenness will appeal to a contemporary audience. The position of women in society is also examined, as Jesus is criticized and ostracized for his inclusion of women in his ministry.
The novel employs familiar language, avoiding religious terms in its descriptions of Jesus’s teachings and in dialogue, making it accessible to a wide audience.
In all, Forgotten Followers is a moving work that inspires hope and faith. Readers will find the characters compelling and its themes relevant to modern times.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.