Luther in Love takes us through the life of the great Reformer through imagined vignettes and actual dialogues.
Luther in Love by Douglas Bond. P&R, 2017, 328 pages
Reading level: Teen, ages 12-15
Recommended for: ages 12-up
Our story opens on a cozy domestic scene: a rainy night, a warm hearth, a long-married couple supremely comfortable together. He is reading, as usual. She is writing—not usual. He coughs, adjusts his bulk in the chair, looks up: “Katharina, whatever are you doing?” She waves her work away as a “little family business,” but it’s a good deal more than that. Her husband is Martin Luther, and his ill health—the incessant coughing, the occasional blood—fill her with apprehension that he won’t be around much longer. She has begun to put down a record of his life, and these winter evenings, with their younger children in bed and the day’s work done, have become a time to probe his recollections and store up memories.
A reader who picks up Luther in Love may be expecting a story of his courtship and marriage. The courtship was short—indeed, almost an afterthought. But if Luther was not “in love” with Katarina von Bora when he married her, affection took root and blossomed in marriage. The greater story is about how Luther fell in love with Christ, his great Redeemer, and how he sparked a movement that profoundly changed the western world.
As a biographical novel, Luther in Love lacks a single driving narrative. There are dramatic scenes, such as the pivotal “Here I stand” moment, and the ultimate meet-cute moment when the famous preacher’s future wife emerges from a barrel. But this is an overview novel, a life-and-times chronicle of with many of Luther’s actual words embedded in the dialogue. The imagined scenes and dialogue are true to the man’s character: blunt, moody, capable of boisterous highs and crashing lows (bi-polar, even?), generous, impractical, earthy. The author doesn’t shy away, as Luther did not, from physical ailments involving his gut. But such is life. It’s not a page-turner, but teens and adults seeking an engaging account of the great Reformer’s work will certainly find it here.
Overall rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 5
- Artistic value: 3.5
Douglas Bond profiled the pre-Reformation hero John Wycliffe, in The Revolt.