In Hold the Faith, Susan M.B. Preston focuses on the biblical Apostle John, widely acknowledged to have lived life as an unmarried man, and asks herself: “What if he had had a family?” Using this premise as a springboard, she gives flesh to this family, as well as other characters created to seamlessly interact with actual historical figures.
A majority of the account is the author imagining the day-to-day life of John’s grandson Samuels’s family, including activity in Samuel’s marketplace oil and lamp stall, the kitchen workings of Samuel’s wife, and family visits with other kith and kin. But the scenes of John’s great-grandson Benjamin accompanying the apostle on his teaching journey throughout the region are the most absorbing as Benjamin struggles to determine his life’s path: Should he follow in his father’s footsteps? Or attempt the evangelical path of his great-grandfather?
Preston notes that her writing was inspired by a Bible study produced by a non-Trinitarian sect, so traditional Christians may raise eyebrows, but her historical points of daily life in Roman-governed Ephesus (Turkey) and surroundings are spot-on. Some readers might be bothered by the overt switches from pure narrative to passages conveying instructive religious points, but in general, she creates a compelling, entertaining account. A few spelling and grammar errors do not deter from the experience, and Preston supplies a welcome, if limited, list of terms used in the book at its conclusion.
When it comes to historical fiction, readers either happily jump into the author’s world with full understanding that it’s fiction by definition, or feel a need to dissect every line searching for historical inaccuracies. Here, the author has obviously done her research of the era. Any fan of the genre willing to go along with the fictional conceit will contentedly settle in for an enjoyable read.
Also available as an ebook.