Book Review: THE BOOK OF EMMAUS by Kevin St. Jarre

Book Cover with a book on fire and figure in background
THE BOOK OF EMMAUS by Kevin St. Jarre

Kevin St. Jarre’s THE BOOK OF EMMAUS is a fast and engaging read. Once I started, the story propelled me forward, and I finished it in several hour-long sessions over a couple of days. I don’t give out many 5 stars, but this one deserves it for being spare, well-written, compelling, thought-provoking, atmospheric, surprising, and ultimately satisfying.

This slim book is set the Benedictine monastery of Emmaus in Prague, which makes it an armchair travel device. It’s an armchair TIME travel device, as well. Alternating chapters between three time periods: 1373, 1944, and 2022, THE BOOK OF EMMAUS offers a delightfully vivid sense of the monastery life in medieval plague times and the Nazi occupation of WWII, finally leading up to–and juxtaposed against–modern-day academia. These three story lines weave an intriguing tale leading to a big twist at the end. (No spoilers here!)

I was most impressed with the author’s skill in organizing the plot points, making sure that each time period chapter reflected and “collaborated” with the others as the book moved forward to its conclusion. I also enjoyed the subtle philosophical commentary on power and religious zealotry.

Readers of books like THE DaVINCI CODE and HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL may really dig this one. My advice? Read it while listening to some Gregorian chants.