Title: Necessary Heartbreak
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Publication Date: March 30, 2010
Paperback: 256 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
From the Publisher:
An extraordinary journey back in time shows a struggling single dad that the faith he’s lost is still alive—and stronger than ever. . . .
Michael Stewart has weathered his share of hardships: a troubled childhood, the loss of his mother, even the degradation of living on the city streets. Now he’s raising his teenaged daughter, Elizabeth, on his own and doing the best he can at work and at home. But he’s turned his back on his faith—that is, until the morning Michael and Elizabeth volunteer for a food pantry at their local church. While storing boxes in the basement, they step through a mysterious door . . . and find themselves in first-century Jerusalem during the tumultuous last week of Jesus Christ’s life. It is a dangerous and violent place, where doing what your heart tells you is right can get you imprisoned—or worse—and they are thankful to take refuge with a kind widow. But when they come face-to-face with Judas Iscariot and the condemned Christ himself, Michael realizes that before they can escape Jerusalem, he must experience history’s most necessary and shattering heartbreak—and that pain and loss must happen if Michael is to be set free: to live, love, and reclaim the blessings he has in the present day.
I quite honestly did not know what to expect when I began reading Necessary Heartbreak by Michael J. Sullivan, although the novel pleasantly surprised me. Michael Stewart is a loving and struggling single father to 14-year-old Elizabeth, a rather typical teen, yet with so many questions about the mother she never got to know. Michael and Elizabeth are helping with the church’s volunteer food drive and come across a mysterious trap door in the church’s basement. Being curious Elizabeth goes through, and her father, unable to find her, enters himself, only to discover they have somehow been transported to Jerusalem, just prior to the crucifixion of Christ. During their time in Jerusalem, Michael and Elizabeth learn a lot about themselves and each other as well as Leah, the kind woman who took them in and kept them safe. Sullivan tells the narrative alternating between the present and the flashbacks from Michael’s troubled past, Elizabeth’s desire to make her dad happy, and Leah’s losses. Will Michael and Elizabeth be able to find their way home or will they be forever trapped in Jerusalem? At the heart of the novel there are two Catholics who have lost some of their faith staying with a Jewish woman during Passover, which added a lovely dimension to the novel. The novel offers up some interesting questions that a discussion group could dive into, but as a solitary reader I remained ambivalent. I truly enjoyed the character of Leah and wish I would have felt as strongly toward Michael and Elizabeth. Necessary Heartbreak is a short and quick read which delves into some of the deepest issues of what it truly means to love, suffer loss, and to have faith.
Michael J. Sullivan is an author and sports writer living in New York who graduated from St. John’s University, and is a member of the McDonald’s All-American Selection Boys Basketball Committee and the Parade All-American Selection Committee. Michael hosted sports radio shows on WGBB on Long Island, NY, and WEVD 1050AM in New York City, as well as worked with ESPN and Sporting News. In addition to writing the When Time Forgets series, Michael covers high school and college sports for Fox-owned Scout.com, which involves daily activity on ten to twelve message boards as well as writing approximately 100 articles each month.
Michael has published a number of books through established trade houses, including the trivia book So You Think You’re a New Yorker, which was an iconic work lauded by columnist Cindy Adams. In addition, he published seven sports-themed books for children through Enslow, and a volume of a children’s book series through HarperCollins.
I received a complimentary copy of Necessary Heartbreak by Michael J. Sullivan from Simon and Schuster. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.