I won this book at fabulous International Christian Fiction Writers blog somewhere back in June. Those days I have been overwhelmed by all the exams I had to take and I just didn't have time to concentrate on anything except college. I decided to read it while on vacation. And that was a good decision. The book is not a light read. It takes time and devotion. But, first let me tell you something about the story. Here's the blurb from the back cover:
If there is a way into madness, logic says there is a way out. Logic says.
Tallis, a philosopher’s servant, is sent to a Greek academy in Palestine only to discover that it has silently, ominously, disappeared. No one will tell him what happened, but he learns what has become of four of its scholars. One was murdered. One committed suicide. One worships in the temple of Dionysus. And one is a madman.
From the author of The Brother’s Keeper comes a tale of mystery, horror, and hope in the midst of unimaginable darkness, the story behind the Geresene demoniac of the gospels of Mark and Luke.
I am a Catholic who goes to mass more or less regularly, I took all the sacraments, I studied Bible and still read it from time to time but I've never registered a part of the story about Jesus on Galilee Lake speaking with the madman. I did remember him waking up in the boat and stopping the storm but not about him talking with the madman. I'm not sure why that is but as I mentioned before I was on vacation with limited access to the Internet and my Bible was at home. So I dove into the story and wasn't left wanting. My curious nature wanted to find out more about Geresene demoniac before the ending of the book but in the end it was a good thing that I couldn't remember this event - it made the story more interesting and I read every page with eagerness.
The story starts with Tallis, an Athenian servant, who has been sent to visit the Palestinian school his master has founded and has been supporting financially. Upon his arrival he found out that the school is no longer in existence and all the teacher are missing and one of them was even murdered. The teacher who went mad was the youngest of them and most promising one. The story grips your attention from the start and I had trouble putting the book down. You want to know what happened with the school and why nobody speaks about it. How is possible that three men disappeared and nobody saw a thing. Although the book is called Madman he is not the main character but the servant Tallis.
Another thing unknown to me was the cult of Dionysius and all the rituals associated; but I don't want to go into details because I don't want to spoil the story for you.
The landscape was beautifully described; I could see it and feel it all. The story gave very good picture about the customs from that time, about the Greeks and Palestinians, their differences and similarities. There were many characters and they were very well developed but the innkeeper's daughter Kes was a character that felt real and believable to me and I enjoyed reading about her.
After finishing the book, the one thing that kept popping up was the sentence that, for me, summarises the whole story: “Quandocumque impellunt, repelle. “ in English: "Whenever they push, push back.". It refers to the demons which posses your mind if you allow them. Demons are not necessarily some mystical creatures but they are real things like insecurity, boredom, egoism, conceit that come knocking at your door but can enter only if you allow them. I think this is the message. You have to push them out of your head because that is the only way to remain healthy both spiritually and physically. Also, it shows how easily one bad thought leads to another and that one to another and soon you are overwhelmed and can't push back anymore. Although the story is based on a gospels don't think this is the book for Christians only. It's not. It's a story about human mind, love and value of friendship. The Jesus is mentioned only on a few pages and not in a way that makes you feel like someone is trying to push you to believe something you don't want to or like you are being pushed toward the religion you don't know/want/need. Like I said it is all about how strong and good your heart/spirit is and do you want to be a good person. The other message is that when you are down and everything looks black there is a light and you can find it if you believe in it.
The thing that really delighted me was the cover. I mean look at it, it is pure perfection. I LOVE it.
I give this story 5 out of 5 feathers. I enjoyed it and loved it.