My latest review for CatholicFiction.net:
The Book of Jotham is a unique and beautifully moving account of a mentally challenged man (Jotham) who becomes one of Jesus’s followers. What makes this book so unusual is that it’s written in the second person and is a fictional story of this man’s relationship with Jesus and the apostles. The narrative from Jotham’s point of view is filled with sentence fragments and (what appear to be) simple thoughts. I initially wondered whether it might be difficult to read, but I was pleasantly surprised. The writing style actually had a poetic feel to it.
The author takes us into what most people perceive as the “simple” mind of a handicapped person. Jotham is described as “big as a house, stupid as a donkey.” His mind, and the minds of other mentally handicapped persons, are not simple at all. At first glance, his thoughts seem to be simple, but they can also be complex, honest and insightful. The reader can bond easily with Jotham because Jotham sees truth more clearly than any supposedly normal intelligent man. It takes a tremendous amount of skill for an author to create a character like Jotham.
At the beginning of the story, Jotham tries to understand his mother’s death. The reader sees her death as “light fading away.” He leaves home and, because of his disability, is ridiculed. He eventually meets Jesus (the new light). I enjoyed experiencing the miracle of the loaves and fishes through Jotham’s eyes. Through this imperfect young man, we can see the light in Jesus’ disciples. But we can see darkness (in Judas and others) as well. The relationship between Jotham and Judas is extremely well done; the scene between these two characters after the crucifixion is particularly compelling.
I was easily drawn into the story. The characters are mostly ones with whom we are already acquainted: Jesus, the Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Thomas, Judas. I especially enjoyed the moving interactions between Jesus and Jotham.
As a teenager, I volunteered at a local school for mentally disabled children, most of whom had Down Syndrome. Because of my short stature, I was assigned to the small children and babies. The toddlers were easy to love, often difficult to discipline, but I enjoyed caring for them because each had a gentle disposition. In this same way, Arthur Powers creates a thoroughly believable character in Jotham that readers will easily come to love.
It is ironic that in our wounded world, beautiful souls like Jotham are often aborted before birth. And yet these imperfect human beings have great potential for love, perhaps more than most “normal” human beings.
Brilliant character studies, interesting setting descriptions and beautiful writing all make The Book of Jotham an excellent and worthwhile read. It may be short (can be read in a couple of hours), but it is filled with well-developed characters and poetic prose. Although the story of Jesus and his apostles has been told and retold numerous times through Scripture, tradition, movies, books, plays and documentaries, this is a beautifully refreshing and unique version. I highly recommend this novella, which is only $2.99 on Kindle.