- Title: Take This Cup
- Author: Bodie and Brock Thoene
- Print length: 388 pages
- Publisher: Zondervan
- Publication date: March 25, 2014
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
- 2 gingersnaps (out of 5 gingersnaps) for content(1)
- 3 gingersnaps for craft(2)
- 4 gingersnaps for its handling of Christian themes(3)
- Comprehensive score: 3 gingersnaps (average)
Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers, a subsidiary of HarperCollins Christian Publishing
The periphery details:
Bodie and Brock Thoene are two of my favorite authors of gripping Christian fiction. Their Zion Covenant series stands out as a testament to their ability to make memorizing Bible verses (specifically, verses of Isaiah) seem like a privilege won thanks to the death-defying adventures of our predecessors. I chose to review this book, despite it being the second in a series (and not having read the first) because I love their work.
(From the publisher)
Nehemiah, the young son of a Jewish woman, a weaver from Jerusalem, is born and raised among the Jews who didn’t return to Jerusalem from the Exile. Educated by Rabbi Kagba, one of the magi present at Jesus’ birth thirty years earlier, Nehemiah grows up with the expectation of a soon-coming Messiah. Could the Yeshua of Nazareth, who is walking the earth, reportedly doing miracles, be that Messiah?
When young Nehemiah must travel the long caravan road to Jerusalem, he is charged with an unusual mission—to carry a mysterious object back to the holy city of Jerusalem . . . an object whose reappearance heralds the Messiah’s arrival.Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem just as the final events of Jesus’ earthly ministry are coming to a climax: the Feast of Dedication, the Triumphal Entry, the last cleansing of the Temple, and culminating at the Last Supper in the Upper Room. Only Nehemiah understands the true sacrifice that is to come as he makes the cup worthy of his Savior.
The Thoenes are able writers who spin a tale with skill. They dramatize the last few months of Jesus’ life as told through the eyes of a shepherd boy, along with dream cameo appearances by Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel.
There was a lovely scene between Joseph and Nehi, the shepherd boy, in which they talk about not losing hope.
The use of “Sparrows” for the homeless boys in Jerusalem was well done.
I wanted to love this book. I really did, but it fell so flat that it took me two weeks to finish. I fell asleep for the first five or ten times I tried to read the book. I only managed to finish by using the text-to-speech feature on my Kindle and listening to large chunks of the book while ironing.
It took me most of the book to figure out why this book was dull, and I’ll list them here:
- Nehi (Nehemiah), the shepherd boy, never does anything wrong and never experiences character growth.
- The dream visions from Joseph were probably meant to be inspiring, but they felt too much like a deus ex machina to squeeze in narrative that Nehi could not have known.
- The constant repetition of “This cup is an amazing treasure that will change history” felt forced and did not build a sense of awe and grandeur.
- None of the characters experience growth or change.
If you want a dramatized version of the Bible verses, akin to a Passion Play, this is a nice (but wordy) way to imagine what it might be like to wave palm branches while shouting hosannas as Jesus entered Jerusalem.
If you want a well-crafted story that can stand on its own merits, this is not it.
I particularly objected to the miraculous reappearance of Nehi’s parents at the end, when they had been presumed dead for the bulk of the book. The book takes great pains to show how Nehi can identify with homeless orphan boys, only to throw him into the joyous arms of his parents a dozen chapters later. Considering the enormous drama involved in the Passion itself, this melodrama was unnecessary and cheapened the narrative. Children do lose their parents to early death, and false death came across as a way to play on the heartstrings of the reader and not because it made narrative sense.
Conclusion: Take This Cup gives a dramatized version of the Passion through the eyes of a young shepherd boy. Well-meaning but wordy and slow-moving.
- Content refers to the themes and structure of the book. For fiction, this includes macro elements such as the book’s premise, character arcs, and how well the conflict and resolution fulfill the promise of the book. For non-fiction, this refers to the information that is conveyed.
- Craft refers to the level of writing technique, ranging from clarity of text to carefully edited prose.
- Christian themes refers to the application of Biblical principles as well as the understanding and application of Christian theology.
Additional note: The combined score generally is a mathematical average of the three ratings, unless an individual rating is especially low or high.