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In this companion volume to her previous book, Phoebe: A Story, author Paula Gooder pursues a similar vision: “My intent is not to write a novel. Novels are stories that exist for their own sake and which are constrained only by the imagination of their author. This book, like Phoebe: A Story, is constrained not just by what can be found in Acts 16 and the epistle to the Philippians, but also by the scholarship and writing surrounding both texts. What I am trying to do is to bring the context and the scholarship to life and to give a sense of what it might have felt like to live in Philippi at the time Paul sent his letter.”

Gooder focuses on reimagining the lives of four women—Lydia and the slave girl healed by Paul mentioned in Acts 16 and Euodia and Syntyche cited in Philippians. Gooder’s goal is to show readers that people came to Paul’s letters from varying perspectives depending on their life circumstances. One of the major themes of her book “is that each of the characters we meet has a story, a story that has shaped who they are as people. That story affects how they receive The Story, the story of Jesus Christ, Son of God.”

Gooder’s emphasis is not to show what did happen—an impossibility given the little information we have about Lydia and the other biblical characters—but what might have happened. Still, she hopes to encourage readers to approach Scripture with their imaginations, bringing the text to life in new ways.

The format of Lydia is a unique combination of storytelling and scholarship. The first part, about two-thirds of the book, relates Gooder’s imagined narrative of the four women and others. The second part includes extensive notes on what Gooder considers to be the most interesting scholarship written on a vast array of topics relating to her story.

Engaging and enjoyable, Lydia will prove to be informative and inspiring for readers who love stories and appreciate biblical scholarship and historical insights. (Hodder Faith)

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