I want to share a beautiful review of The Pilgrim, from reader Sue Stevens:
Complete disclosure here – I am admittedly a big fan of Davis Bunn’s writing – whether history, thriller, fantasy or other. If Bunn wrote it, I’m going to read it.
When I received THE PILGRIM in the mail, I was intrigued and at the same time disappointed that it is shorter than most Bunn novels. When I read a bit about the book and discovered it was based in history, a re-telling of the story of St. Helena, mother to Constantine and a key figure in early Christian history, I was doubly intrigued – I’m a bit of a history geek. And I dove in.
But this is not dry as dust, completely remote, has-nothing-to-do-with-me history. Bunn uses his substantial imagination and story telling talents to practically create out of whole cloth individuals about which there is little detail, if any, in ancient historical texts.
We come to know – and journey along side of – three individuals in particular, all of whom are struggling with horrendous grief and loss: Helena herself, former empress, now divorced, abandoned and stripped of everything she knew in life; Anthony, young Roman soldier who is looking for death to relieve him from his grief of losing his wife and child; and Macarius, former bishop of the now destroyed and scattered church in Jerusalem and crippled for his faith.
Helena is on a quest, responding to a vision she received from God and seeking to walk the yet-to-be-named Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem and bring the news of The Edict of Milan, that all Christians are no longer to be treated as criminals. So that’s the set up. But again – this isn’t dry history; this story is a page turner. I wanted to know what happens next, what danger – and what miracle – lurked around the next bend in the journey.
And yet at the same time, I was brought to my knees, reflecting on my own falling-short, my own griefs and sorrows, on Christ’s grace that reaches even me, on the miracles that God works in simple and wondrous ways.
I’m considering sharing it with some friends who are going through some very tough times right now – I believe it will be a comfort, not because the parallels between their experience and Helena’s are so exact, but because the journey we all take in life is so eloquently spelled out in these pages.