Book Review: Twice Freed by Patricia St. John

   Twice Freed by Patricia St. John is definitely one of my favorite books. Historical fiction set in the first century Roman Empire (one of my favorite time periods!), it tells the story of Onesimus, the runaway slave written about in the book of Philemon in the Bible.  It’s a beautiful story of redemption. There are many things I love about this book.

Historical and Biblical accuracy:
I love how historically accurate this book is. Most of the characters and many of the events are taken directly from the Bible. Where fiction is added, it’s done so in such a way that it does not stray from Scripture.

The characters:
I love the character development in this book, especially Onesimus’ struggles and victories. In addition to Onesimus, there is a variety of other characters from the pages of Scripture—Philemon, Archippus, Apphia, Paul the Apostle, Aquila and Priscilla, Luke, John Mark, and others, and I love how Patricia St. John developed their characters as well. Another reviewer mentioned that they disliked how nearly all that Paul says is adapted from his letters in the Bible, but I think that is a good thing. To me, it seems that to represent a historical figure such as Paul the Apostle, where you have a good bit of their writings available, it’s best to keep most of their dialogue similar to what we know they really said.

The writing:
I love the writing style. It reminded me both of C. S. Lewis and of Elizabeth George Speare, but yet it’s different from both of those authors’ styles, too. Her descriptions are beautiful, and she does an excellent job conveying the emotions and feel of different scenes.

The themes:
There are a lot of great spiritual truths woven into this story. I think one of the major themes is the true peace and freedom found in Christ and the emptiness found when you seek it elsewhere. The theme flows naturally in the story; it doesn’t feel forced as we see Onesimus search for beauty and happiness in the pagan gods and physical pleasures and they leave him empty. Another theme that comes into it is repentance and seeking to make things right when you realize you have done wrong.

Final thoughts:
As I mentioned earlier, this is one of my favorite books. I’ve read it myself at least three times. My mother recently read it aloud to my younger siblings and me, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. There were a few instances when my younger brothers rolled their eyes: the parts involving the girl Onesimus loves. But there’s nothing inappropriate, and the romance is not the main focus of the story. The story does include slaves being beaten, mentions of Christians dying martyr’s deaths, and gladiator fights, but the violence and gore are kept to a minimum. Also, there are mentions of drunkenness and perversion, but it’s all handled very tastefully, and it’s mostly just mentioned, not shown and described. I think Patricia St. John did an excellent job of accurately portraying the depravity of the times without going into unnecessary graphic detail.
   One of the things I love about Biblical fiction, such as this book, is that it helps you notice details in the Bible that are easy to miss. Somehow, reading a fictional story about Bible characters can actually help you understand the true account in Scripture more. I know for me anyway, I understood the book of Philemon so much better after reading this book. I do wish there was a section in the back of the book, clarifying what was fiction and what was true. Having researched this time period pretty extensively, I knew what was fact and what was speculation, but for someone who is not as familiar with this era and events, it would be helpful to have that clarification.
   Overall, I give Twice Freed 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it.
   Well, always remember, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it,” (1 Thess. 5:24).
All for Him,
Savannah Jane


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