Witnesses by Valerie Volk

Reviewed by Richard Tutin

 For Christians and members of the Jewish faith, biblical stories are indispensable in understanding how we interact with God in everyday life. The books of the Bible are a treasure trove of stories, songs and teachings that assist believers through reflection and discussion. It’s always good then when an author offers a different slant on a story or stories that enhances this discussion and reflection.

Valerie Volk has thrown her hat in the ring through her latest book Witnesses. She has delved into the biblical narrative of both the New and Old Testaments to present a collection of sixteen stories that takes the reader behind the scenes of the familiar text.

As we unpack a biblical story we concentrate on the main characters before us such as Abraham, Noah, Jesus and Paul. We forget that there may be others involved. What did for example Noah’s family think when they were locked into the ark with its menagerie of animals during what has been referred to as the Great Flood? Did King Saul’s armour bearer really want to carry out the wounded king’s order to kill him before his enemies took him prisoner?

Volk brings new life to the biblical narrative through the secondary characters who would normally not be mentioned in a reflection or bible study. She gives them a voice and fleshes out their thoughts and concerns in each chapter. Sometimes this can be confronting as we realise that there is nothing new under the sun. For example, being locked in an ark for an extended period is very similar to the lockdowns experienced in many parts of the world at the height of the Covid pandemic. She gives each character a chance to tell their side of the story and how they felt and responded as the event unfolded.

There is an element of having to fill in the gaps that the biblical narrative does not have. Volk does this sensitively that allows us to enter into the situation if only to satisfy our curiosity of what could have been happening behind the main scenes of a particular story.

Volk does not stop at just presenting the tale of each witness. She also includes some finely tuned questions that could be used for personal reflection or in a group bible study. Using the book in this way presents us with a chance to renew our understanding of what are to many important events. We can consider afresh stories we have probably heard and read many times. It also reminds that much of what is in the Biblical narrative has implications for modern lives if we see them from a new perspective.

Valerie Volk is an award-winning Adelaide writer of poetry, verse novels, short stories, travel tales and long fiction. A self-confessed voyeur of other people’s lives, she is fascinated by the perennial question ‘What if…?’  Witnesses is her eleventh book.


by Valerie Volk


Wakefield Press

ISBN 978 1 74305 990 6

$27.95; 198pp

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