Steal Away Home is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of the lives and friendships of Charles Spurgeon, the famous London preacher, and the slave-turned-missionary Thomas Johnson. I am grateful to Lifeway/B&H Publishing Group for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Steal Away Home, to me, seemed like a great idea that wasn’t as well executed as I would have liked. Some parts were heart-warming, and others left me scratching my head.
First of all, what a beautiful story! I really appreciate the work that Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey put into bringing this story that was previously not very well known to the public eye. I’ve personally been a large reader of Spurgeon, but i’d never heard of Johnson. It was very interesting to learn about his life and legacy. This book truly does have some heart-warming moments. This genre can be very powerful. I’m a big fan of the work of Lynn Austin, who has written numerous historical and biblical fiction novels. Reading these kinds of stories in novel form helps you to put flesh on bone on people. It’s so easy to idolize our heroes like Spurgeon, and it’s so easy to forget that they were human beings with problems and sins just like us. I walked away from reading this book feeling encouraged to be bold for the sake of the gospel, and i’m grateful for that.
However, I do have some serious concerns about the book. Now, as a disclaimer, I realize that authors of historical fiction novels have to take a bit of artistic license with the story. That’s where the whole “fiction” part comes in. However, this is usually done by adding minor characters or details to add depth to the narrative. There were some straight up historical revisions in this book, and that concerns me. I was interested in learning more about Thomas Johnson after reading this book, so I looked up some information about him and was very disappointed to find out that many of the details about him in the book are simply wrong. His entire conversion story in the book, one of the most moving parts of the book, was completely different in real life. Johnson was not converted at a worship service on the plantation by listening to his friend Ezekiel, as the book says. According to Johnson’s autobiography, Johnson was converted after hearing a street preacher named Stephney Brown. This was immensely disappointing, because that chapter was one of my favorite parts in the book. The book also said that Thomas met his wife after the war ended. However, according to his autobiography, Thomas married his wife in 1863, 2 years before the war ended. I don’t understand why the authors felt the need to change these details. Surely the book would have been just fine if they would have told the real story about these events. This leaves me feeling quite disappointed because now I don’t know if I can trust the other information that I felt like I learned by reading the book.
Overall this book has its strengths, but i’m very disappointed about the historical errors. I feel like the book would have been fine if the authors would have told the story as it happened. For this reason I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending this book to others. If others didn’t take the time to research the details as I did, they would likely believe that what they read is what really happened.