I’m excited for the release of my new historical novel, The Pilgrim, on Friday, July 17. In these two reader reviews, Judith Ingram and Debbie Phillips beautifully reflect on their own journeys as pilgrims.
Judith Ingram, on Goodreads
Davis Bunn’s historical novel, The Pilgrim, reads like a poem—lyrical and layered with spiritual meaning. The plot moves slowly, allowing the reader to savor the characters’ subtle introspections and heart changes that are the real story.
The title at first seems straightforward, “the pilgrim” being the empress mother of Constantine, recently divorced and shamed, on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. As her journey progresses, however, the troubled young Roman soldier assigned to accompany her reveals himself to be a pilgrim, also, on a journey to recover his lost faith.
By the end of the novel, I realized that I, too, had become a pilgrim, following their journey in faith, waiting for God to act and recognizing His movement in factual church history, which Bunn artfully embellishes with fictional details.
I recommend The Pilgrim to readers who enjoy a thoughtful read that is rooted in historical fact and finished off with vivid descriptions and piercing truths that will linger long after the book is laid aside.
Debbie Phillips, on her blog
Wow, what a book. This is a GREAT historical fiction novel by a favorite author, Davis Bunn. A wonderful, touching tale about Helena, the mother of Constantine; her companions; and her pilgrimage to fulfill the call of God on her life and to walk in the steps that Christ walked while on his way to Calvary. Constantine, her son, has found the Lord and is beginning to change the world. Helena has been given a noble quest, through a vision from the Lord.
Oh, what wonderful characters. Oh what glorious descriptions. A quest that would lead the characters not just to Jerusalem, but to a deep spiritual place that helps them to find a reason to live, a way to forgive themselves for their failings and their past, and a way to join together to make the world a better place, especially for the Christians under Roman persecution.
I love how Bunn weaves a tale and brings me along and helps me to travel with each character on their journey. I felt with each character. I empathized with them. I wished that I could join them on the journey. I wish that I could go now and travel the Via Dolorosa.
This book helped me on my journey to forgive myself; and forgive others who have wounded me in the past. This is a difficult thing for me to do. It is something I have struggled with for the past 3 years. I have not finished my quest. I have not fully forgiven, but I am making progress and this book was one tool that Lord has used on my path to forgiveness.
I have for you two of my favorite quotes from the book…
“She had to forgive herself.
On one level, it was ludicrous. What had she done to deserve her fate? She had every right to be hurt, wounded, angry and even to seek vengeance.
On the other, she knew the truth of this matter. She did not need anyone to be hard on her. She was harder on herself than anyone else could possibly be. Nothing she did was ever good enough. She had spent an entire lifetime striving to do better, to rise further, to be more. Which, of course, was one reason why she remained so upset with her husband. Because he had both failed to live up to her expectations and dragged her down as well.” pg 63
“Helena sat apart and argued with herself. Personal forgiveness meant accepting that she was flawed. Imperfect. Destined to miss the mark, time and again. She doubted whether she was able to actually, honestly, take that step.” pg 64
“I have a world of reasons to worry. I know I am frail. What I want is to look beyond all that.”
Slowly, Macarius turned back. His good eye gleamed as he observed her in silence.
“I want to be ready to serve at God’s command. And I can’t do this if I let fear and regret and anger dominate my life. I want to turn from all that. I want to focus on God. But I don’t know if I can.”
Macarius took her hand and he had the previous night. “Let us pray on this. And keep praying. And trust God both to answer and to give you the strength to hear.” pg 73
I completed this book and find myself inspired, hope filled, forgiven and more ready to forgive others, more aware of this time period, and deeply grateful for the opportunity to read and review it.