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The Nativity Story - A Novel Paperback – October 25, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
It's a difficult task to retell the biblical nativity story in a fresh way—after all, it has been novelized, brought to stage and screen, and is the stuff of endless children's Christmas pageants. Yet this companion novel to the New Line Cinema feature film (which will hit theaters December 1) should find a place on the bookshelf as a fresh and viable retelling. Hunt, the author of more than 70 books and working from Mike Rich's screenplay, refrains from oversanitizing the story, although Mary and Joseph are fairly one-dimensional (there aren't a lot of character flaws here). She depicts their gritty, hardscrabble existence as balanced by the love of family. As a thoughtful reader would expect, the census trip to Bethlehem is no picnic, but some readers may be surprised that the shepherds and wise men show up at the stable together, unlike in the gospel account. The good-natured joshing among the three wise men provides a lighter note to the chapters where Herod's cruelty is well portrayed. Hunt balances the necessary violence with a sensitivity that will expand her readership. Her rich prose and cultural details utilize the five senses to recreate the familiar story, which spans many points of view and includes a fine subplot about Elizabeth, Zechariah and John. (Nov.)
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"Raudman's rendition of this familiar story is fresh and dynamic." ---AudioFile --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The film of The Nativity Story is set to hit theaters on Friday, December 1. It is billed as a faithful retelling of the biblical story of Jesus' birth. Of course, as with any film based on the Bible, there must be a good deal of artistic license and exploration. I hope to discuss this further after I have seen the film.
The book novelization of the film was handled by Angela Hunt, author of over one hundred books, most of which are historical or contemporary novels targeted at women. How well this book represents the film I will not be able to say until I have seen it. If it is a true adaptation I believe I will enjoy the film a great deal. I began reading this book with great skepticism but found myself enjoying it all the way until I had turned the final page. It will not win any Pulitzer Prizes, but is still well-written and enjoyable, even though it feels that perhaps it was rushed just a little bit. Hunt clearly dedicated a good deal of time to understanding Jesus' cultural context and these details add a fascinating dimension to a story we all know so well.
Just how closely the book adheres to the biblical story is a discussion that can wait until I review the movie. Suffice it to say, for now, that many scenes and characters in the book are fictitious, invented to fill in details or to create a suitable setting for the story. Details of the personalities of the real characters are also created or adapted as necessary. The story also bows to old church traditions at times, such as in the names of the wise men Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. These names are traditional but can be traced only to the seventh century and are unlikely to be genuine. And yet all of the biblical details are present, I believe, with the rather disappointing exception of "the angel [and] a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'"
When considering the story of the nativity and Jesus' early life, the majority of attention tends to be focused on Jesus and Mary with Joseph serving as only a bit player. I found it interesting that in this book Hunt devotes equal time to exploring both of Jesus' earthly parents. While the Bible says little about Joseph, Hunt fleshes out his character into what he probably was - a principled man who dearly loved the Lord. And yet this points to a concern about this type of book. The Bible says almost nothing about Joseph and it may not be expedient for us to remember him in a way that differs from Scripture. The same may be true of Mary, Elizabeth or any of the other characters. But the beauty of a book like this is that it can easily transport us to the time and culture of the characters, allowing us to understand more about the world they lived in than we are told in the Bible.
Regardless of these misgivings, I did enjoy this book a great deal and am awaiting the movie with eager anticipation. I am more than willing to admit that my love of the subject matter may bias me, but I would have little hesitation in recommending this book and even in passing it to unsaved friends or family. It is, after all, little more than the story of Jesus' birth with attention given to the historical setting and cultural context. The story takes no major missteps, but accurately and faithfully represents the biblical account. I hope the movie does the same.
I enjoyed the research that went on towards the writing of this book. It's full of historical detail and knowledge. You get a feel of the time, from Mary and Joseph's perspective, from Herod's, and the Wise Men. I know there is much debate about when the Wise Men showed up or even how many there are. I just find it amazing that any persons would come, near or far, to see a baby being born. Imagine how the shepherds felt when they saw Jesus, their Messiah had finally come. I also liked the prologue, which showed a modern view on the Nativity which is what most people believe in and have become immune to.
The Christmas season should be remembered in the way Hunt portrays the first Christmas. Very simple, with lots of faith and belief. The book shows that these were real people who were struggling to understand why they were chosen, yet they believed without a doubt. We today should follow in their footsteps. Another powerful read from one of my favorite authors.