The queen of the great Chola Empire has taken the tall, light-skinned saint from the mysterious West for her guru and, as if predestined by some primordial karma that must play itself out, she falls in love with him. But Thomas—or “Doubting Thomas,” as he is known to all the world today—is in love with God. Or is he? Cut off for seven years from everything that nourishes his inner vision, he sees his old world of solid certainties wobble.
The Doubter doubts again. In the meantime Kumaran, a low-caste Tamil-speaking poet who has accompanied Thomas on his missionary travels, succumbs to a different kind of karma. As a result, Thomas confronts, not martyrdom for preaching the new faith, but “execution for adultery.” Torn between his love for God and the queen, he tries to bring order to his soul. Meanwhile, in the breast of the queen, a plan so momentous takes shape that it will determine the course of an empire.
Set in first-century India, The Severed Breast tells the story of the Apostle Thomas’s epic struggle to convert India’s Hindus and Buddhists to Christianity. Betty, a college professor and world religions expert, brings to life ancient South India’s villages, cities, palaces, wars, famines, satis, tribes, castes, gods, beasts, her mountainous jungles and fishing coasts and rich rice plains, her steamy climate, and her traditions—all of which constitute Thomas’ strange new world. Through his eyes we experience the opulent life of the royal court in fabled Puhar, long ago swallowed by the sea, and the historic Battle of Venni in horrifying detail. Betty imaginatively presents through flashbacks the critical events in the story of Jesus and Thomas in faraway Judaea. He gives insight into Hinduism’s historic resistance to Christianity, then shows how they might live together in harmony. But the novel is more than a story about the travails of India’s first Christian missionary. It’s a love story, interlaced with treachery, between a vulnerable saint with godlike aspirations and a golden-skinned Hindu queen of the ancient Chola Empire.
Readers who love Dostoyevsky should greatly enjoy The Severed Breast. The way it weaves together perilous adventure, contests of wit, and timeless spirituality is extraordinary and important for our time.
About the author
Stafford Betty earned his Ph.D. in theology from Fordham University, where he specialized in Asian religious thought and Sanskrit. Today he is a professor of world religions at California State University, Bakersfield, and has become an acclaimed expert on the afterlife. In 2011 he published The Afterlife Unveiled, the first of his afterlife books, and The Imprisoned Splendor, a novel set in the afterlife. More recently he published Heaven and Hell Unveiled: Updates from the World of Spirit, and When Did You Ever Become Less by Dying? Afterlife: The Evidence. Three more books are pending and under contract, including Ghost Boy, a novel for middle-graders about a clairvoyant boy, and a futuristic novel The War for Islam. He regards a novel, The Severed Breast, published by White Crow, as his best work. It tells the story of the apostle Thomas’ travels through India to win Hindus and Buddhists to Christianity. Stafford’s many scholarly articles and essays can be found at academia.edu. He writes and speaks with clarity and regularly addresses conference and radio audiences.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published December 2015
Size: 229 x 152 mm