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Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine
Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine
by Scott Korb
Edition: Hardcover
134 used & new from $0.01

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart Scott, Real Smart, April 23, 2010
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First, full disclosure: I'm the author's mother and I'm writing this review in collaboration with his grandmother. She's 82 and I'm 62. We're both Catholics, as is my son, which makes the subject matter of particular interest - despite the fact that, as Scott says, "This is Not a Book about Jesus." All this said, we have no vested financial interest in the success of this book. (Although truth be told, my son does owe me a little money from the time I helped him move out of a bad living situation a few years ago. I can honestly say, though, that this has no impact on our review. It only dawns on me now, as a matter of fact, long after I'd already formed my favorable opinion of his book.)

My mother and I typically read who-done-it page-turners and romances. I've even read a few bodice-rippers in my time. And I've always encouraged Scott to write one of those kinds of books. That's where the real money is. Janet Evanovich and all those writers. Instead, he wrote a book of ancient history. Smart, Scott, real smart.

What's so great about this book, though, is that it reads really well, almost like those page-turners we usually read. What he's done is to make history fun without losing any of the seriousness and smarts it takes to get the stories straight and to expand, in his words, our "moral imaginations." You find yourself laughing on one page - say, about personal private privies dug into the ground with a hatchet and then squatted over by guys who covered themselves so they didn't offend God's eyes - and then realize ten pages later that, come to think of it, life in year one must have been really, really terrible for some of those poor people. Just like life must have been really, really amazing for people back then. And come to think of it, those were actually REAL PEOPLE living back then. I know this last point sounds obvious, but what I learned most from this book isn't this or that fact about daily life in the time of Jesus, or this or that interesting tidbit about first-century cleanliness and cooking (although there are some excellent facts and tidbits along the way). No, what I learned most from this book is that the people in year one were people. Real live people. Not some romanticized, glorious, and beautiful people we imagine when we read the Bible or see movies and TV shows about this time.

I mean, look around at the people you share your life with. Those people you know and love or even those people you know and hate. Those people having a really hard time of it right now. Those people celebrating new marriages and new babies and so on. Those people are easy to see and easy to identify with because they are really real. Well, what my son has done in his book is to make the real people from year one really very real. He brings them to life. (Or really he asks readers to bring them to life. But same difference.) He even makes the real people from today's Holy Land really very real. Take, for instance, his cab driver Ahkmed, whom you meet in the Epilogue. He's as different from me as they come - a Muslim man living in the Middle East - but in this book I can identify with him, feel sympathy for him, really learn to like him. You actually get to meet him. That's what is so good about this book. All the people you meet.

Five stars.

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