Fr. Michael Giesler kindly sent me a review copy of his latest novel, Grain of Wheat, from Scepter Publishing. It's the first of his books that I've read, but is actually the third in a trilogy that began with Junia and continued with Marcus. All are related, and tell the story of the early Church, of conversions, of joy and crosses.
From the publisher's synopsis:
Set in the second century of the early Christian Church, Grain of Wheat takes you into the heroic lives of the early Christians. Along the way, it shows the beauty and dignity of the Christian family, along with the power of the vocation to celibacy — a charism lived not only by priests and bishops, but by many of the lay faithful. These brave men and women, both single and married, followed Christ and spread his Kingdom while remaining in society. Through their courageous faith an entire culture was transformed, one person at a time, one family at a time.
This work of fiction draws on early Christian testimonies, as well as more recent historical and contemporary books. It continues the saga which the author introduced in Junia (2002) and Marcus (2004).
Grain of Wheat offered me the chance to immerse myself for a time in the faraway world of the early Christian Church but at the same time to see that, in some ways, their lives were not so different from our own. Friendships, family relationships, work -- all are affected by our faith, and our faith should affect all of these things. Acquaintances can become friends in Christ, and conversions can come from the most unlikely corners.
I also appreciated the way in which Grain of Wheat was written -- so gently, with the careful touch of a man who treasures what is sacred and knows how (when the plot requires) to refer to the profaning of it without wallowing in the details and ugliness.
I will have no qualms about passing this one on to teenage Anne-with-an-e, and I have a feeling we'll both want to go back and read Junia and Marcus, to fill in the blanks and spend more time with this heroic but very human Christian family.