Thomas Y. Crowell Company
New York, NY
As might be evident from the title, Journey To Bethlehem is a fictional retelling of the Christmas story -- the journey that Joseph and Mary took to Bethlehem that ended with the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
I stumbled upon this little known historical novel while browsing online for inexpensive used copies of books written by Maud Hart Lovelace and her husband, Delos W. Lovelace during my October 2009 Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge.
At the time I was not only surprised to find that Delos had penned a historical novel set in Biblical times, but also that it was the first time I'd heard of the book. Why was that, I wondered, but in reading Journey To Bethlehem I came to understand these facts a little better.
First, Journey To Bethlehem is a good read, but not a powerful read. I liked it, but didn't love it. I was fascinated with the depth of research that Delos must have undergone in order to produce a story that accurately portrayed life 1,950 years prior to the author's life.
Then of course Delos did take several liberties with the famous Bible story, but that is pretty much the norm for any historical novel. The book is based on real people and some real events. Some of the supporting cast are likewise based on real people and some are fictional, but could be based upon real people. The liberty is taken with the conversations and several events that take place throughout the book. However, if the reader can remember Journey To Bethlehem was intended as fiction and not non-fiction or an addition to the Bible than these liberties should not be a problem. And this is the view I chose to take. (In fact, in a lot of ways Journey To Bethlehem reminded me of other historical biblical fiction like The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George and The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke, though perhaps [and no offense to Delos] not quite as good.)
And that's just it. I've read some of Delos' writing and while I liked Journey To Bethlehem I didn't enjoy it as much as some of his other works. I felt the story was a little slow and that the climax of the story -- the arrival of the Christ child -- wasn't quite as powerful as it could have been. Still, I am really glad I found this book and that it was available for a low enough price that I could add it to my personal library.
I started this book in December with the intention of reviewing for Christmas, but one thing after another prevented me from finishing it until my family and I were on a cross-country drive for the holidays. At that point I decided to save my review until the new year. And while most of you are putting away all thoughts of Christmas until next year I encourage you to add this to your 2010 TBR list if you are looking for a different retelling of the Christmas story, even if that isn't for another eleven months.
The only downside to adding this book to your TBR list is that it isn't widely available. None of my local libraries possessed a copy, including the ILL program. However, I was able to find a ex-library copy for under $10 online, so maybe you'll be able to do the same.
Note: For those curious, the Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge will return to A Library is a Hospital for the Mind in October 2010, so start planning!
Not sure what you will read? No worries, you can obtain a partial list of Lovelace books on Wikipedia, or at the Betsy Tacy Society website (here, here, here, and here), or check out some of the books I read and reviewed in 2009.