SUBSTITUTE: a clever, gritty, radiant retelling of the story of Barabbas

Posted: December 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

The Good Friday narrative in the Gospels is, in my view, the quintessential story of forgiveness in human existence. And given the symbolism of the name of Barabbas, there is a bit of him in all of us. He was the one whose life was changed firsthand through the sacrifice of Christ. There are countless ways in which this story can be told, and it always remains fresh and powerful.
The most recent retelling that I have had the blessing to read is called SUBSTITUTE, and it was written by Mr. Andy Back.

The novel may well be the most original retelling of this story that I have ever come across. It is set in the time of Christ, but in an interesting creative choice made to highlight the „otherness” between Jews and Romans, the names of the Jewish characters have been converted into English-sounding names. The name of the protagonist, given the symbolic meaning, „Son of the Father”, thus becomes James Parsons. Peter, the apostle, is Simon McStein, who, in an interesting twist, speaks with a thick Scottish accent, surprisingly fitting for his rugged, yet warm personality. Jesus Himself is Jesus Davidson, which is a simple, yet effective way to render his prophetic title in the Bible as Son of David.
What I love the most about this novel is how clearly the author has understood the amazing power of forgiveness. The manner in which Barabbas goes from a man who is greatly confident in his right to stand up to the Occupying Force(the way in which the Roman Empire is referred to in the novel), to one whose life is shockingly changed by the sacrifice of Jesus, and whose soul is slowly, and sometimes strenuously, but surely placed upon the path of forgiveness. The road he walks from anger, to rebellion, to confusion, bitterness, forgiveness and gratitude, is a road you will be a better, spiritually fuller human being for having walked, which is certainly true about myself. I love this little gem of a book.
Though I was provided with a review copy by Mr. Back, the thoughts herein are my own, and I am entirely blessed and grateful to say so.
Thank you, Mr. Back, for what is truly a masterpiece of Biblical fiction, which should be turned into a performance of some sort. I can see it as a theater show, a movie, or even a TV series. It has earned its ten stars out of five.

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