(also read scholarly reviews, reader comments, and online comments)


Blog Reviews


from I Love to Read

a stupendous novel about Paul, The Apostle …The book is beautifully written full of descriptions of the Holy Land’s landscape and Agriculture … made me read further, stop reading, begin reading and so on throughout the book. My mind was being cleared for new knowledge vs. old knowledge …I questioned and examined myself … I questioned, I discovered, I began to see with a better lighting … birthed in me a desire to know more.


From Spine Creases

A phenomenal novel.  It is well-researched; Holmen clearly has a solid background in early Christianity and religious history. It is also well-written … I felt that I had a more personalized understanding of who Paul was … [Holmen] presents Paul as human. Paul is as subject to human desires, human complexities, and human experiences as the rest of us. The best kind of book, in my opinion, is one that prompts you to think more, to pursue more knowledge. This book definitely incited that curiosity in me.

I found this book to actually be quite a good accompaniment to my studies of Jesus as a social revolutionary, upsetting the status quo. I felt like I gleaned a new understanding of the early Judeo-Christian world, which is pretty astounding after having taken four years of academic religion classes.


From Curling up by the fire

Mr. Holmen was able to show Paul's struggles with his own spiritual self as well as with the political world in this novel, to the point where I felt I was right there along with the people involved … The world in Mr. Holmen's book is also brought vividly to life and I enjoyed reading about the daily life of the people involved in the New Testament; it was all so fascinating.  It added a rich element to Paul's life that made it so much easier to understand and made the characters so much more real. 

Verdict: A Wretched Man is not a traditional book about Paul the Apostle, but if you want to read a well-written tale about one of the most important characters who helped found the Christian movement, then this novel is for you.  Simply put, this novel is about a simple man who struggles with complex ideas and leads a complex life and ends up leaving us with some fundamental ideas about God wants us to view the world. 


From A Different Voice

If asked to recommend some good books about Paul for laypersons and church professionals, … I'd recommend a forthcoming novel, A Wretched Man: A Novel of Paul the Apostle by RW Holmen, a compelling exploration of the Jewish (Nazarenes) and Gentile (Pauline) movements in the first century. If you've ever struggled to understand Paul's form of faith, Holmen's work of historical fiction will help you to imagine your way into Paul's life and times …Holmen definitely captures the "feel" of first-century Roman territories ... His training as a historian is clearly evident ... The author brings to life the source of the conflict between the early Christian movements … It's clear to me that Holmen is well-versed in contemporary progressive scholarship about Paul …Finally, the novel treats Paul, Barnabas, Peter, James, the various women Paul knew, Timothy, Titus, and many others as extraordinarily normal people. We witness their frustrations, their anger, their salty language and questionable behavior, and the mundane experiences of their everyday lives, not just their piety and faithful witness. In many ways, this is the greatest gift of A Wretched Man, because these characters can now leap off the page and into our imaginations. 


From Both Saint and Cynic

Holmen gives flesh to his characters. They eat, drink (sometimes too much) and void waste. They feel love, anger, jealousy, joy and sorrow. They fight and make up. Or not. These Apostles are not Sunday School flannel-graph cut-outs, but complex, three-dimensional human beings.

It is clear that Holmen has done his homework. Everyday life in the first century Mediterranean world is evoked with detail and description. The author has also digested a great deal of current New Testament scholarship and woven it seamlessly into his narrative.

Most importantly, Holmen spins a good yarn.

From Literary Litter

Regardless of your personal religious background, this book is absolutely breathtaking.  The time period is so vividly painted that you can’t help but feel real imagery for what it was like then.  Both the religious and political aspects of the time are brought to light.  This is not a quick read to flip through in a day.  I found myself contemplating each chapter after I finished it, just letting it really sink in. 


From Minnesota Reads

a complex human side of Paul is also offered for consideration. Holmen’s Paul is a conflicted gay man trying to reconcile his sexuality with the teachings of the Torah. This conflict is always with him as he also tries to deal with his role as an evangelizer to the Gentiles. This role also causes conflict with the Jewish Christians led by Jesus’ brother James, who are also conflicted with being Jewish and trying to figure out Jesus’ message and role as Messiah. Holmen captures all of these conflicts and provides the reader with a comprehensive view of how organic and often chaotic life was like for the early Christians.


Readers are gushing!

"A stupendous novel"

"Regardless of your personal religious background, this book is absolutely breathtaking"

"Your novel was difficult to put down and brought to life a distant time and place with such humanity and liveliness"

"A truly significant work"