Monday, January 25, 2016

The Confessions of X by Suzanne M. Wolfe: A Book Review

The Confessions of X
Author: Suzanne M. Wolfe
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Before he became a father of the Christian Church, Augustine of Hippo loved a woman whose name has been lost to history. This is her story.

     She met Augustine in Carthage when she was seventeen. She was the poor daughter of a mosaic-layer; he was a promising student and heir to a fortune. His brilliance and passion intoxicated her, but his social class would be forever beyond her reach. She became his concubine, and by the time he was forced to leave her, she was thirty years old and the mother of his son. And his Confessions show us that he never forgot her. She was the only woman he ever loved.

     In a society in which classes rarely mingle on equal terms, and an unwed mother can lose her son to the burgeoning career of her ambitious lover, this anonymous woman was a first-hand witness to Augustine’s anguished spiritual journey from secretive religious cultist to the celebrated Bishop of Hippo.

     Giving voice to one of history’s most mysterious women, The Confessions of X tells the story of Augustine of Hippo’s nameless lover, their relationship before his famous conversion, and her life after his rise to fame. A tale of womanhood, faith, and class at the end of antiquity, The Confessions of X is more than historical fiction . . . it is a timeless story of love and loss in the shadow of a theological giant.

     My Review: If you’ve read The Confessions of St. Augustine, you will know that it is a story of redemption. His autobiography is highly reminiscent of the parable “The Prodigal Son.” In it, he was lost and strayed far from God and created many sins. Eventually, he found God and changed his way of life. One of these sins was that he took a concubine and remained with her for fifteen years, giving her a son out of wedlock. In The Confessions of X, Augustine’s concubine tells their relationship in her own words. Throughout her novel, she searches for her happiness.

     The protagonist in this story is nameless. Despite her anonymity, she seems to be utterly real. She is the daughter of a mosaic-layer and comes from a poor social class. Her father abandons her, leaving her in the care of her aunt and uncle. When she is a teenager, she meets the young, passionate, and charismatic man, Augustine. She falls passionately in love with him, and runs away to be with him. Because she is of a lower social class than he is, they cannot marry. Still, they live together anyway and have a son. Augustine has a teaching job in Milan. However, because he has a concubine, he cannot advance in his career. In order to give him the job he desperately wants, the protagonist decides to leave him. With her absence, Augustine finds himself free to give his life to God and change his ways.

     The protagonist is really strong. She has suffered much unhappiness in her life. Yet, she finds a way to cope and to go on living. She is very selfless, for she is willing to give up her love for Augustine just so he can be happy. Throughout the novel, she is always seeking her faith. She is constantly asking questions about life. She also asks questions about who she is and what she wants.

     Overall, this novel is about love, courage, choices, sacrifice, loss, and forgiveness. It is about a woman’s quest to find her identity and her happiness. This novel is beautifully written, and the characters are very human. I like how we get to meet some of the saints in this book. I felt that the era had come alive. I recommend this book to anyone interested in St. Augustine’s life, and to those who want to read an emotional, tragic, love story that will impact them after the final page has been read.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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