IVP has a new addition to their “A Week in the Life of” series with this new work from James L. Papandrea. A Week in the Life of Rome combines a fictional story with non-fictional aspects taken from both scholarship and biblical texts. To be perfectly honest, I am not usually a fan of historical fictions and was surprised with how much I enjoyed this book (it was quick read for me as I found it to be quite the page-turner).
The story largely centers on the many tensions that were part of everyday life for a Christian (or soon to be convert) in the Roman Empire. The patron-client system is well illustrated, along with pretty accessible details of what life in ancient Rome was often like. Apart from the educational aspect of this book (and there is a good amount to learn for those unfamiliar with historical and archaeological research), the story shines brightest in its ability to highlight the incredibly emotional and almost impossible situations one faced while trying to remain a Roman citizen and also be a faithful follower of the Way. In particular, the difficult struggle one of the main characters has over whether to give his son over to a “tutor” (which often involved sexual relations between men and young boys) was powerful. It really captures, in a situation that most can deeply empathize with, the real problems the early Christians faced when choosing faithfulness to Jesus over the Empire and its culture. The dangers were real and life-threatening, unlike many of our contexts today.
I think many will enjoy the book who are interested in learning more about what Rome was like in the first century and what it would have been like to live a Christian life in such a world. Pick up a copy, especially if you enjoy these types of books.
Note: I received this book from IVP Academic in exchange for an unbiased review.