Robert West has written a biography of Saint Francis for publisher Thomas Nelson’s Christian Encounters series. In the book, West journeys through the life of Francis of Assisi, guided by earlier biographers of Thomas, historical records of the time period, and the author’s attempt to fill in the gaps. The biography moves between historical recollections and narrative storytelling, describing the events of the life of Francis to paint a picture of the saint who founded the Franciscan order and is known as the patron saint of animals.
While I was looking forward to reading a portrait of this saint, I struggled through the beginning of this biography. Because there is not a great deal establishing the exact accounts of Francis’ childhood and early years, the author weaves together snippets of what we know of Francis of Assisi and what is known of twelfth and thirteenth century Italy. Understandably, this leads much of the early writing to be largely conjecture but made it difficult to be drawn in to Francis’ life. However, the biography does eventually find its place as a short and accessible biography. At several points, the stories many know of Francis (embracing poverty, preaching to animals, etc.) are well-captured, pointing the reader to Francis’ commitment to the demands of Christ. Francis’ life proves a timely reminder of what discipleship looks like in an age of consumerism and West does an adequate job bringing this to life.
Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.