by Michael C. O'Brien

  General / Favorable Reviews
  Critical Reviews

"All of Michael O'Brien's novels are in a sense 'historical,' even those often regarded as 'prophetic.' Theophilos, set long ago in the first century and meticulously researched, is finely textured, lush and convincing in its depiction of the rich embroglio of Mediterranean culture in the time of the apostles. The epistolary prose is hauntingly provocative, often lyrical, compelling in its characterization of the events reported in Luke and Acts as they might be considered from a learned gentile's point of view. This is a beautiful book."

---David Lyle Jeffrey
Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities
Baylor University

"O'Brien again takes up the theme of the truth of revelation before an unbelieving generation. This novel searches the soul of our time through the eyes of St. Luke and Theophilos and those they encountered, including the Lord Himself. O'Brien brings to life the wonder that filled the soul of Luke."

---James V. Schall, SJ
Professor of Political Philosophy, Georgetown University


"An arresting work. Totally credible both historically and psychologically. There's not a single false note in this music. Do you want to get into a time machine and actually live in the first century world? Then read this book!"

--- Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., Boston College Author
The Philosophy of Tolkien




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  A Journey of Discovery and Hope *****

'Theophilos' by Michael O'Brien is a fictional depiction of the lives of St. Luke (author of the Gospel bearing his name as well as the Acts of the Apostles) and the individual to whom he addressed these writings, Theophilos. O'Brien establishes Theophilos as a dear uncle who had the responsibility of raising the young "Loukas" from the age of twelve. The book is written primarily in first person from the perspective of Theophilos--a physician steeped in the belief system of the Greek Gods though who still is more effectively an agnostic--who has now become quite disturbed by his nephew's sudden belief in the cult of "the Christos"---The Way of Jesus Christ. The book is a "present" narrative (mostly in 65 A.D.) with a collection of letters, journal entries, and examinations (interviews) woven into it, along with many reminiscences of the childhood years of not only St. Luke, but Jesus of Nazareth.

I think the first question that most O'Brien fans would ask is, "How does Theophilos measure up to the `Children of the Last Days' series?" To this, I would say that it is more a change of venue than a change of pace. The familiar elements of the author's craft: well-developed multi-dimensional characters, poetic dialogue (both interior and spoken), and thought-provoking scenarios--are not only intact, but I would even suggest further honed. The second question is, "Is 'Theophilos' more the high-action, overtly Catholic/Theological thriller (the likes of 'Fr. Elijah' or 'Plague Journal')... or is it more the evenly-paced, thoughtful novel--rich in Catholic philosophy though more subtle in its presentation (the likes of 'A Cry of Stone')?" I would honestly say this book bridges the gap between the two, with a slight lean towards the latter, yet full of intriguing happenings as we traverse a familiar historical landscape where peripheral biblical "acquaintances" are given depth and personality in very compelling and believable ways.

The historical research is so meticulous, the cultural understanding so cohesive, and the biblical exegesis so sound, that this story becomes more than just plausible; the reader could easily be led to believe that the author had a profound mystical experience of the lives of Theophilos and St. Luke. The change of time period permits O'Brien to delve more deeply into the mystery of the human person, exploring interior realities that transcend culture and time yet which are no doubt influenced by both in how they are manifest. One example is when the adolescent Loukas approaches Theophilos, wrestling with the idea of cutting his hair (he has left it long in emulation of the ancient Greek philosophers). The boy wonders if this act would dilute his "Greekness". In a beautiful exchange between the two, his uncle agrees that, though a man's exterior and interior should "be as one", this is only in the "essentials" (his character, actions, and words), not necessarily in the "accidentals" (physical appearance). An astute Catholic can draw from this exchange not only a reflection on the common--if not universal--experience of adolescent angst (NOT rebellion), but also an even more profound reflection on our understanding of the Eucharist.

Once again, Michael O'Brien has created a masterpiece that I believe affirms his place as one of the top fiction writers of our time. At this point, I find that there are two realities which I lament: first, that Ignatius Press is not the large powerhouse publisher with the marketing machine to get this book in front of more people, and second, that it will most likely be at least a year before I will have the joy of reading a new Michael O'Brien novel. 

-Corban Storm






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