Substitute: A review

As you may be aware, Andy Back from our South site, recently released his debut novel, Substitute, an imaginative retelling of the story of Barabbas. Kate Watkins has given it a read, and we asked her to share her thoughts on the Central Line…


I have to profess that I am not a literature expert. I read as a way to wind down, however I do love novels and the different worlds they can take you to, and it was for this reason that Substitute appealed to me.

substituteI felt that it gave me a different way of exploring the Bible and the events surrounding parts of the New Testament that I know well, with a focus upon different characters and their emotions in the events. I found that I enjoyed getting to know the characters and imagining them in their world and talking to each other, and seeing the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection in a different context.

It made me think about what Jesus’ death might have meant to the different people around him at the time, much more than I have ever considered that before. I often reflect on what Jesus’ death means for me and the world today but I had not previously thought about the fact that even on the day itself Jesus was substituting himself for someone else physically in that moment too. I’d never reflected on what that might have meant for that person and those close to him. This made me think again about Jesus’ death and the meaning of it.

I felt that many of the characters were believable – I enjoyed getting to know Nathan and Judith, and also Ben, and truly empathised with them at some of the events. I found James himself (the Barabbas character) a little frustrating at times – I wanted to shake him and get him to realise what he had gained, and encourage him to stop acting with such a temper at times, and felt he needed to learn from his mistakes – however I guess that’s symbolic of how we can often be as humans, whether temper is one of our sins or it is something else. I less enjoyed the scenes towards the end with the games, they were quite graphic and not my cup of tea at all (often I’m a chick lit kind of reader!)

The appendices were also interesting to me, combining Bible references and history with the fiction of the story, ensuring a reminder that the book is based upon the Bible and not solely meant as a story of fiction.

I would recommend it if you are looking for an easy read with a Biblical twist.


Substitute is available from Amazon and on eBay for £8.99; however, buy direct from Andy for £6.99 (discount for Churchcentral members). Contact andy@andyback.co.uk

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