We throw phrases around so easily these days, especially in the sphere of gushing blog reviews. I know that, but I’m about to write a gushing review and there’s a phrase I’m in need of that has been overused, but that applies so perfectly to this book. The book I’m referring to is Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas (which I’m reviewing as part of Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze.com program). The phrase I’m needing to use is “the author weaves a rich tapestry”, which Metaxas really does.

Though the central figure of Bonhoeffer shines brightly from the 542 pages of biographical writing, there are multiple threads that flow throughout the narration. There is an overview of the Third Reich, a history of the Confessing Church, a great section on Luther and the abuse of his later writings, and much in the way of family relations. The vision of early 20th Century Germany is much more complex than the movies have often made out, and we see Metaxas evaluate how Germany came to be under the authority of an evil dictator. The author does a solid job of informing without condoning, but neither does he blindly condemn all of Germany. Instead, I found myself immersed in the confusion and disturbance of a nation torn. It really was a quite remarkable experience!

Most compelling to me was the tracing of Bonhoeffer’s theological path, and the centrality of his devotion to the Word and prayer. That, in the midst of suffering, confusion and upheaval, a man could maintain his discipline, and even be sustained by it is inspiring and convicting.The writing itself is fluid, with both beauty and truth expressed clearly. I love how the excerpts of letters and other varied writings are used within the narration, letting people tell their own tales but maintaining the flow. Metaxas is a skilled and passionate author, that is for sure!

Ultimately, the proof of this text is twofold: firstly, at a practical level, I’ve never been much of a history buff, nor one to read biographies, but I could not get away from Bonhoeffer; secondly, reading about the man’s life and thought compel me to read his own works, and I am sure that I shall gain that much more from them having read Metaxas’ book.

Highly engaging, expertly crafted and destined to take a top spot in my reading list of 2010.