This is the story of two real people whose lives were touched by God: two people chosen by God to provide an earthly home for His Son. Here are Mary and Joseph - a teenage girl and a young carpenter - alone, frightened, in love, faced with family conflict, a hostile world and an awesome responsibility. It is a story for young and old alike; for everyone who finds the Christmas tale a source of timeless beauty and wonder, a compassionate, emotional novel of divine love.
My take: 4 looks
Very good storytelling makes this a winner to read. Solid Christian doctrine makes it believable. With a combination like that, it's hard to go wrong.
I have just a few issues, though, with some of the characterizations. The first, and greatest, is with Mary's mother, Hannah. She is portrayed as a harsh, selfish, harpy of a woman who takes to her bed with headaches whenever she doesn't get her way. It was annoying at best and caused me to bristle every time she was involved in the story. When she finally broke at the end, believing that her daughter was actually carrying the Messiah, I felt no sympathy for her in the least. I was glad that she had finally received her mental comeuppance.
The other issue I had, albeit very minor, was Joseph's reaction to Mary's pregnancy. He was not angry in the least, but only confused. The text also doesn't indicate that he wanted to divorce her quietly, but that it was the urging of her father for him to do so. This story tells of a firm and steadfast Joseph who never waivers in his love and devotion to Mary. I don't think that's the way it could have happened, especially when the culture at the time called for the stoning death of the woman.
With that said, the writing was beautiful. I highlighted many passages in the course of my reading to be able to go back later and fully digest them, or to have the simple pleasure of reading them again. Mary's arrival at Elizabeth's and her reaction was a joy. Joseph's delivery of the Christ child was touching. It was a delight to read and I look forward to the other two in this series.