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Reviewed by Jose Cornelio for Readers' Favorite
My Brother’s Keeper: A Novel About the Family of Jesus by Bill Kassel is a historical novel that follows the story of James, the half-brother of Jesus, and the dynamics in his family. It follows Rabbi James of Jerusalem on a difficult mission to protect his kinsman and brother, Jesus. He has made a promise to Joseph, his father, to protect Jesus. But Jesus is a free-spirited and charismatic character, a controversial figure who turns things upside-down wherever he passes. As his popularity grows, the greed of some groups of people who hate the Romans grows as well, and they also see an opportunity to use his popularity for rebellion. James has strong political ties with the Roman governor, Pilate. Pilate comes to him for counsel in matters related to the Jewish law. But can that relationship give him the edge he needs to protect Jesus? Can someone, anyone, even protect the revolutionary Jesus, whose message challenges the existing norms?
This is an inspiring story that explores the political atmosphere and the world in which Jesus evolved. From the very beginning, the author presents the geographical and cultural setting, providing strong religious hints to the story. Expressions that translate the way people spoke at the time are manifold. The characters are historical and Bill Kassel handles the conflict deftly, exploring the impact that Jesus had on the lives of people and various groups. But what caught my attention the most is the way that the protagonist, James, is developed and his anxiety translates his loyalty to family and his love for Jesus. The role that Pontius Pilate plays in the story is well-defined and it fuels the political themes and propels the story forward towards the decisive moment of the crucifixion. My Brother’s Keeper: A Novel About the Family of Jesus follows the journey of James from struggling to help Jesus through witnessing Roman cruelty to understanding the need for new leadership for his people. A deeply moving, emotionally arresting, and inspiring story.