I read the original Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxis a couple years ago and loved it. It is a heavy, moving biography. Faith fortifying. I knew immediately that it was going on my sons' reading list when we studied WWII. Of course, it didn't occur to me that there were already twenty other books on the list for the same era and that I didn't want to devote more than a couple months to WWII. I briefly considered dropping it from the list.
I was thrilled to find Bonhoeffer Abridged! I'm generally not a fan of abridged books, but I was very hopeful this book would be able to trim the less important details from the original version, while maintaining the heart of the story. Much as I loved the original, it did have a lot of extra details in the that I actually found a bit distracting and draining to the story. I did read some reviews describing the abridged version as choppy, but I found the original to also be choppy, so it did not dissuade me.
The abridged version takes the story from around 600 pages to 256. 214 pages of that make up the actual story, with notes following. Unfortunately, cutting that many pages was a bit too deep of a cut. The elements of the original story that I most wanted to share with my sons were the development of Bonhoeffer's faith while in America, Bonhoeffer's ecumenical views, and the description of how the Nazis were able to brainwash so many people and rise to power so quickly.
Bonhoeffer had a tremendous knowledge of scripture and theology before his trip to America, but he truly grasped the heart of a relationship with God while visiting "Negro churches" in America. The original portrayed it beautifully. The abridged version doesn't give it a full page and the relationship aspect is completely dropped. The discussion about his appreciation for the style of worship he encountered was the only bit that remained.
The original helped me see the process and propaganda involved in the rise of the Nazi party. The abridged was helpful, but it did seem to jump from a tiny fringe movement to a full on regime rather quickly.
The views of the churches and the struggle Bonhoeffer encountered in communicating with them and encouraging them toward solidarity actually seem to come through a bit more clearly in the abridged version. I do appreciate this part of the abridged book, but not enough to make up for the rest.
While Bonhoeffer's story is an excellent study, these two missing points are the main reason I wanted my boys to still read the original. We'll see if there's time. If there is no time for the original, this is still a fine, though not stellar, alternative. It is certainly beneficial and enjoyable. But if you have the time and option, I recommend the original Bonhoeffer.
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