From the author of the international bestseller The Last Station, a historical novel of the Apostle Paul, whose tireless and epic preaching of the message of Jesus brought Christianity into existence and changed human history forever.
Sweeping in scope, yet as intimate as a breath—that is how Parini presents the story of the Apostle Paul. The parameters of Paul’s life are well known, and books about him—fiction and nonfiction—appear regularly. But few are written with the intense detail and keen insight that Parini provides ... It’s a deeply intimate portrait (and it’s good history, too, highlighting the women who supported and often subsidized the Way) ... Parini is a poet, and the beauty of his language is everywhere, whether he’s describing the glories of the ancient world or the form and faces of the young people Paul admires with a profound wistfulness. A moving read, both earthy and transcendent.
As a stylist, Mr. Parini is decidedly Luke-like, stressing clarity and directness. This may explain his fascination with passionate, impulsive figures like Paul (he has also written novels about Herman Melville and the final, fanatical days in the life of Leo Tolstoy), but it hampers his attempts to channel the apostle’s voice. These chapters can seem staid in relation to the wonders they unfold ... Such wonders are formidable nevertheless, and The Damascus Road will serve as an appealing introduction for readers who know little of these figures beyond the scripture they left. Well-wrought scenes describe Paul’s debates with other pillars of the Church, like St. Peter and Jesus’ brother James, and there is an undeniable thrill in picturing these men making up rules on the fly that will not only define Christianity but shape the world as we know it today.
Parini’s book is less a historical novel in which a man believes he’s had a vision and more a historically-based fantasy novel in which a man actually does have conversations with a god ... The glimmers of hard, gemlike sardonic humor that flicker through Parini’s earlier historical novels are not entirely absent in The Damascus Road, although this latest book is clearly afraid of this tendency ... for the most part, The Damascus Road is a squarely straightlaced affair, a prosier elaboration of the Epistles, an Act Two of the Apostles. Parini’s atmosphere-creating talents are in full power in these pages; his Paul is wonderfully situated in the dusty streets and stuffy synagogues of the first century Roman Judea. The extent to which such verisimilitude is wobbled by the book’s main character talking to a god will be for each reader to decide, but the book surrounding that moment is as impressive as anything Parini has ever written.