The Thief is the second in a series of novels in “The Living Water Series.” All three are based on an actual encounter with Jesus, as recorded in the Gospel of John: the woman at the well, the man born blind (this book), and the raising of Lazarus. This fascinating story takes place in first century Jerusalem. Though it’s fiction, the story is interestingly intertwined with the facts of the biblical account, especially the days leading up to and just after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
It was obvious to me that the author, Minnesotan Stephanie Landsem, did her research well before undertaking this 322 page book. Not only does Landsem know the Bible, she also knows Jewish history, geography, religion, and customs of the time. In addition, she knows a lot about the Roman Empire and the languages of the period. Even though I’ve studied the Bible all my life, I gained new insights into the life and times of our Lord by reading this book.
When asked how much of the story is true, the author replied, “In this series I stay true to these accounts, but from them I can branch out into conjecture and imagination. I don’t want to rewrite the Bible, and I know that’s not what my readers want either. What I want to do is imagine the settings, the culture, and the historical era so well that when my readers go back to the pages of the Bible, it is with fresh eyes and a new understanding.”
When asked, “Who is your favorite character in the story and why?” Landsem responds, “I love Nissa. She rough around the edges, quick tempered, and speaks her mind even if it gets her in trouble. But she’s also lonely and hurt. Underneath her rough exterior, she wants what we all want: security and love – and she’s looking for it in all the wrong places. I like to think that if I lived in her time, I would have been the friend she so desperately needed.”
Nissa was my favorite character too. She reminds me of women I’ve met who have been deeply hurt by their family and others in their lives.
The theological themes of sin, grace, forgiveness, and atonement are graphically illustrated by the stories the author creates about Nissa, her blind brother Cedron, the Roman centurion Longinus, and two thieves Nissa hangs out with. If you have a non-Christian friend who enjoys historical fiction, this might be a book to give her and ask her about later.
Just as a point of interest, I’ve learned that The Living Water Series has been very popular among Christian book clubs. There is even a section in the appendix entitled “Enhance Your Book Club.”
Despite all the glowing things I’ve written about The Thief I must admit that at times I found it a
bit melodramatic and contrived, especially the romance between Nissa and the Roman centurion Longinus, but hey, don’t forget your reviewer is a man and one who prefers facts to fiction at that. J