‘Awakening,’ a time travel adventure to the Crucifixion, is Lenten time well spent

Reviewed by Tom Dermody

Imagine being in Jerusalem during the week of Jesus’ Crucifixion.

I have always been a fan of time travel books, television series and movies. So when I learned of Claudia Cangilla McAdam’s novel “Awakening,” in which a modern teenager suddenly finds herself as a witness to – and even a participant in – the original Holy Week events, I thought it might be an interesting fictional read for Lent.

“Awakening” did not disappoint.

While McAdam is known as an author of books for children and young adults and “Awakening” – with its side story of protagonist Ronni’s crush on a neighbor boy – seems ideal for early teens, this 150-page paperback actually tackles some profound questions as its unlikely story unfolds. Among them:

  • Why did Jesus have to die?
  • Why should anyone sacrifice for someone not deserving of it?
  • If you could travel back to those days in Jerusalem, would you try to save Jesus? Should you try?

Many of us journey with Jesus spiritually when we take part in the Stations of the Cross. Or we might imagine ourselves in the mob as we dutifully, if not enthusiastically, shout “Crucify him!” during the Passion account on Palm Sunday or Good Friday.

For Ronni, however, the line between imagination and reality blurs when, through a “The Wizard of Oz”-like experience, she awakens in Jerusalem during the turning point in all of history.

And like the farmhands or Professor Marvel from “The Wizard of Oz” – which McAdam cleverly references just before the time travel begins – familiar figures from Ronni’s life (her mother, friends, neighbors, etc.) are masterfully written into the Jerusalem narrative as key figures.

McAdam’s knowledge of the Catholic faith, Judaism, and Scripture are evident throughout “Awakening.” If the book has a fault, it is that the Catholicism at times seems a bit forced. Teen Ronni’s detailed knowledge of what is going to happen leading up to the Crucifixion seems beyond her years, though by that time we are aware that her 21st century mother is a devout Catholic who lives her faith and makes it a foundation for her family.

There is no shortage of spiritual reading to deepen one’s Lenten experience. But if you are looking for a brief work of fiction that may “awaken” you, like young Ronni, to a better understanding of who Jesus is and the meaning of his sacrifice, Claudia McAdam’s time travel novel is time well spent.

“Awakening” is a very appropriate book choice for middle school literature classes. Classroom discounts are available through the publisher, Sophia Institute Press.

TOM DERMODY is editor of The Catholic Post, the newspaper of the Diocese of Peoria. Write to him at tdermody@cdop.org.

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