In My Brother’s Keeper, by Bill Kassel, we read a great piece of Catholic fiction. Now, right off the bat, let me explain the definition of the genre, “Catholic Fiction,” using Kassel’s own words to describe his effort:
This book is a work of speculative fiction, based on incidents in the New Testament, reimagined and elaborated on extensively. I have not attempted to create a ‘fifth Gospel.’ Rather, I’ve tried to fill in some gaps between facts given in Scripture with inventive suppositions about how things might have been (p. 574).
This imaginative effort, coupled with an excellent understanding of Jewish-Roman relations during first-century life in Nazareth and Jerusalem, results in a masterpiece worthy of your time.
James: My Brother’s Keeper
My Brother’s Keeper, centers on the character of James, the youngest child of Saint Joseph and his deceased wife, Escha; who died shortly after giving birth to James. Kassel spends a good portion of the book setting the stage, by telling us about life in Nazareth, with Saint Joseph, his family and especially James’ upbringing. James does very well in studying the Torah. He is ultimately sent to Jerusalem to study under the great rabbi, Hillel. There, James hones his rabbinical skills, makes connections, and becomes highly regarded; so much so, that James is referred to as James the Just. While all of this is happening in James’ life, his step-brother, Jesus, is being raised in Nazareth.
Answering the Call
Things are moving along swimmingly, until James receives information that his father, Saint Joseph, is near death. James scurries home to Nazareth in time for one last talk with his father, who asks James to look after Jesus; to be his brother’s keeper. James promises his father that he will do his best to look after Jesus, who by now is at the precipice of beginning his ministry.
This is where the book gets interesting to the point where you cannot put it down. You see, James is a Doctor of the Law (Jewish law). Word spreads fast from the hills of Nazareth to the streets of Jerusalem. James hears of some of Jesus’ provocative statements, and of how he is being treated in some parts. Concern arises, and James remembers the promise made to his father.
What stance will James take? Will he challenge Jesus on the interpretation of the Law? Or, will he put aside all he knows about the Law to save his brother? Will he hold fast to his Pharisee roots, or toss aside years of work in building relationships with the Sanhedrin and the priests?
Get Your Copy of My Brother’s Keeper
The ending of this story brought tears to my eyes, because I could easily see myself in James’ shoes. I won’t spoil the ending for you. I’ll just say that this masterpiece pierced my heart – most likely one of the best books I’ve ever read!
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