Friday, July 10, 2020

A Book Review: The Silas Diary

    Hello, and I hope you are having a good week! Today's review is another one of my favorites. This was such a good read for me, not only because the narration, setting, and characters were well done, but because it gave me a new way to view the New Testament and my own Christian beliefs.

    As well as searching for new books to review, I've also been trying to figure out how to get more viewers. I would absolutely love it if this blog could become a way for you to find out what kind of books are worth your time, kind of like the media reviews on Plugged In and Common Sense Media. I would love any help you could give me, especially if you're someone who likes to keep up with a lot of book reviewing blogs or Bookstagram accounts.

    What "makes or breaks" a good book review or book blog for you? What books are you interested in? Would you want me to review books that are fresh off the market, will be released soon, or have been published for a couple of years but not gotten any attention? Do you want me to review more "classics'? What are some of the ways this blog could improve? Please let me know!

    This time I will try to make my review as spoiler-free as possible, while still navigating any issues to be aware of before reading. Since the discussion questions are meant to be used after reading, however, they will still run the risk of containing spoilers.

Title: The Silas Diary

Author: Gene Edwards

Series: This is the first in a five book series called the First Century Diaries.

Targeted Age Range: Not specified, though due to the age of the characters I'd think it would be geared toward teens and adults.

Synopsis: This imaginative narrative parallels the book of Acts, giving a first-person account of Paul's first journey. We see it through the eyes of Silas, a friend and traveling companion of the apostle. You'll find yourself shipwrecked in the cold Mediterranean Sea, fighting for life with Paul and John Mark as they grab for something to hold on to in the icy blast of an Etesian storm. You'll discover what it's like to ford a river in a hailstorm only to be swept ashore in drenched, cold clothing, far from shelter or friends.

The Silas Diary is your invitation to join Silas, Paul, and their companions on a journey fraught with danger and adventure--a journey that changed the history of the world. Learn with the first-century Christians what freedom in Christ really means.

Language: Some mentions of cursing. An unfair action is called "wicked". There are some insults, the strongest including "son of the Devil," "full of trickery and villainy", and "enemy of all that is good".

Violence: The main characters are persecuted for what they believe in, and death is a serious and much-mentioned issue. Characters endure a harsh shipwreck, sickness, stoning, beating, and scary travel conditions. Looting and physical torture are mentioned. An antagonist swears an oath that he will fulfill or die.

Romance/Sexual Stuff: Sexual immorality is mentioned.

Though not sexual in and of itself, the Jewish rite of circumcision is presented as an issue, especially relating to Christian doctrine. Once a particular advocate for circumcision peeks inside one man's room, trying to see if he is circumcised or not. Many Bible verses/books of the Bible/Biblical terms are mentioned.

Spiritual Elements: The main characters are all strong Christians. Two of them feel especially called to minister to those who have never heard the Gospel. They risk being shunned by their own religious sect in order to do this. They fully believe Jesus is the promised Messiah and Son of God. Some who do not believe in this religion mention "the gods" and "omens" when talking. Some personal opinions of religion, wrong and right, are introduced. Since the book takes place in the Roman Empire, Roman religion is mentioned too. Once a character uses God's power to blind someone.

The author has some views on the Christian church, including the value of house churches and less rigid authority structures, that may or may not be considered problematic since those opinions are clearly expressed in his writing. Some who have read and reviewed this book have expressed negative opinions about those things, so be warned if you want to check this book out. Especially if you are not likely to agree with some of the ideas.

One final note: This book will not make a lot of sense unless you have an adequate knowledge of Acts, the book of Galatians, and some Biblical terms/Bible characters. If you are just starting out as a Christian, or just don't remember that much about the Bible, you may get a bit confused.

Magic: One antagonist in the book describes himself as "part magician".

References: There are references to Cyprus, Seleucia, Antioch, April, the Mediterranean Sea, Pentecost, Eloea, Salamis, the Olympus Mountains, Egypt, Italy, Phoenicia, Rome, Greece, synagogues, Jupiter, Tamassus and other neighboring cities, Jews/Hebrews and Hebrew culture, Gamaliel, Tarsus, Pharisees, Gentiles (anyone not Hebrew or of the Hebrew faith), Nazareth, Cyprus, Sergius Paulus, Asia Minor, the Etesian Winds, Moses, Abraham, Attalia and other neighboring cities, the Augustan Road, denarii, Galatia, the Anthius River, Leviticus, the Forum of Augustus, the god Men, Antioch of Pisidia, Syria, Iconium, Lystra, Zeus, Augustus Caesar, the Koprut River, Hermes, Satan, Derbe, Antioch of Syria, and dagger men.

Other Issues: Derobing is mentioned in order to get across a raging river. Characters take off their shirts to expose scars. Eating meat sacrificed to idols or from strangled animals, and consuming blood, is mentioned. There is mention of a fizzled-out friendship.

Where To Buy: The Silas Diary is available on Amazon, Seed Sowers, Abe Books, and eBay.

My Age Range: Due to some of the violence and spiritual elements in this book, I think that this book would be best read by ages 14 and up.

Read Aloud: Based on the issues above, I think this book would be a good read aloud because it has so many things to discuss, good or bad. I think that no matter your beliefs, it would be a fascinating way to share thoughts and memories in a family who's ready to leap into this book (and this series) together.

My Opinion: I found The Silas Diary during school last year. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from this at first. (The title leads me to believe that the book is more about Silas, and I naturally thought that it would be about one of Paul's later adventures.) However, I soon found myself swept away into Gene Edwards' carefully researched writing, so much so that I ended up being surprised when I had to stop reading! I also reserved the sequel, The Titus Diary, as soon as I could, and that book ended up being even better than this one, in my opinion.
    Like I mentioned earlier, The Silas Diary actually gave me a new way to examine my own faith, and my view of church. I absolutely enjoyed reading Edwards' descriptions of a loving, helpful church family that just overflows with peace, joy, and a willingness to serve. For me, this book was also a way for me to see Paul and all of the other characters as people like me. Not perfect ideals and not names on a page, but ordinary men and women who just allowed God to use them. I was deeply inspired by their examples of faith, and especially by the message of salvation that was woven throughout the story.
    If you or your family are looking for a descriptive, emotional read right now that tackles church history in a fresh and intriguing way, read The Silas Diary. Let both its theme and its characters envelop you with truth. Despite any flaws it may have, despite any hard things the characters face, I believe there's something in here for everyone who has a desire to know Jesus and to serve Him. 

Discussion Questions:

-Paul and Barnabas feel called to serve God by giving the Gospel to the Gentiles. Why might most Jews disagree with their mission? If you were Paul or Barnabas, how would you feel about their opposition?

-Which character did you look up to the most and why? Was there any character whose example you would like to follow?

-At first many of the believers in Antioch distrusted Paul's declaration that he had become a Christian. Why? Do you think this was a valid reason to doubt his word, or that they were being contrary against how they should act as Christians? How do you think Paul felt during those times?

-Paul and Barnabas started churches, but were there for barely a year before they left each one, placing the care and preservation of them in God's hands. Even when they faced no persecution before the months were up, they continued to do this. Do you think they did the right thing, or even an admirable thing? Why or why not?

-Paul seemed so full of fire when he confronted Peter and wrote the letter to the Galatians, but later suffered doubt and fear as they traveled to meet the Galatian churches. Why do you think this happened? Do you think it was a necessary thing for Paul to doubt so much?

-Gene Edwards paints a word picture of what he believes a thriving, God-centered church, or ecclesia, should be like. Compare and contrast these ideas with the way your church does things, or the way you've seen a local church do things. Do you agree with the way he thinks things should be? Why or why not? Do you think these ideas can even be used in today's culture? Why or why not?

    Thanks for joining me for this review! I hoped that this review helped you or gave you a suggestion for a friend. Do you have any books/book series that you think would be perfect for a review? (If so, let me know! Please check out my Review Policy page and make sure I'm accepting those types of books before posting.)

    Join me next week for my FIRST EVER try at a Top Ten Tuesday list! I will be posting this list instead of my weekly single book review, and if it's a successful run, I'll start posting Top Ten Tuesdays one week each month.

    I'm also thinking about starting a Toddler Thursday event, where I review a picture book geared toward toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners. Anyone interested?

No comments:

Post a Comment