4 out of 4 stars
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The Last Man At The Inn: One Man’s Quest to Believe by R. William Bennett takes place in Bethlehem, the city of David. It tells the story of Simon, a merchant who acquired the last room available in town during the time of the Roman census. Simon followed the life of Jesus from his birth to his resurrection. As he learned more about this man who was changing everything, Simon realized his need to confront his confusion, sadness, anger and hurt.
Simon had just secured lodging in Bethlehem when a young couple arrived at the door right behind him. The woman was pregnant. Simon debated giving up his comfortable room but convinced himself that he deserved it. Later that night, he went out for a walk. He came to a cave where shepherds had gathered around a newborn baby. It was the same woman who had been at the door of the inn. People began saying that this baby was a king. As time went by, people started following this teacher and repeating his teachings. Even Simon’s family became followers of this Jesus!
Simon struggled with the things he heard about this new teacher. He watched the members of his family grow in faith. He had many questions about the Holy Ghost. Could all this talk about miracles, healings, and people being brought back to life be true? Could Simon receive this same joy after the way he had treated the child’s parents?
I enjoyed this unique presentation of the well-known birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and appreciated the author’s faithful recounting of biblical facts. This original narrative of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem would appeal to those who are familiar with and believe what the Bible teaches about Jesus as the Savior of the world. Many readers will be able to empathize with Simon’s spiritual struggle as he asks: Is there truly forgiveness for all my sins? Why don’t I feel joy? Simon’s spiritual journey helps us understand that not all people grow and mature spiritually at the same pace. People who are not believers could also enjoy this story, as it would help them gain a deeper understanding of the believer’s hope and source of faith. Readers who are opposed to any type of embellishment of biblical stories would, most likely, be opposed to this type of narrative.
The story is told from Simon’s perspective. Readers are aware that this is the traditional Christmas narrative, but the unique point of view brings new life to the story. It was interesting to observe this Jewish man questioning the facts and trying to overcome his guilt and doubts. Simon re-examined his own lack of faith while he puzzled over the changes he observed in his family and acquaintances. Numerous secondary characters contributed to Simon’s search for the truth as tension grew between Simon and the family members who had becomes followers of the rabbi.
The only dislike I have is that the author did not include any biblical references. There are several quotations from Isaiah and one relating to the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. I would have preferred to have the Biblical references to these stories. These specific references could be inserted as footnotes. This would enable readers to verify and study these additional stories that the author has incorporated into the account.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The author took an old story and made it new. The character development, dialogues, and descriptions of the setting added to the enjoyment of the story. It is a relatively short book of only 197 pages. The text is well edited, as I only found three errors. This is a captivating way to enjoy the Christmas story in a new light.
The Last Man at the Inn
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