New from Simon & Schuster

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory
Rebel Yell by S. C. Gwynne
Angels Walking by Karen Kingsbury
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
You Can't Make This Stuff Up by Theresa Caputo
Necessary Heartbreak

Necessary Heartbreak

A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness

  • reading group guide
An extraordinary journey back in time shows a struggling single dad that the faith he’s lost is still alive—and stronger than ever. . . .

Michael Stewart has weathered his share of hardships: a troubled childhood, the loss of his mother, even the degradation of living on the city streets. Now he’s raising his teenaged daughter, Elizabeth, on his own and doing the best he can at work and at home. But he’s turned his back on his faith—that is, until the morning Michael and Elizabeth volunteer for a food pantry at their local church. While storing boxes in the basement, they step through a mysterious door . . . and find themselves in first-century Jerusalem during the tumultuous last week of Jesus Christ’s life. It is a dangerous and violent place, where doing what your heart tells you is right can get you imprisoned—or worse—and they are thankful to take refuge with a kind widow. But when they come face-to-face with Judas Iscariot and the condemned Christ himself, Michael realizes that before they can escape Jerusalem, he must experience history’s most necessary and shattering heartbreak—and that pain and loss must happen if Michael is to be set free: to live, love, and reclaim the blessings he has in the present day.
Choose a format:
  • Gallery Books | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439184233 | 
  • March 2010
List Price $16.99
This title is temporarily out of stock, please check back soon.

Read an Excerpt



“Let’s save each other some time today, Elizabeth. What are you

“In a sec, Dad.”

Michael sighed and looked in the mirror. His head was pounding from a few glasses of pity wine the previous night, and he noticed a web of inflamed capillaries spreading across the corner of his left eye. I look awful, he thought.

Disgusted, he retreated to his bedroom and pulled open the top drawer of his worn dresser. A thin layer of dust was across the top, and absentmindedly he brushed it away. He stared down sullenly into the contents of... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Necessary Heartbreak includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Michael J. Sullivan. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Necessary Heartbreak tells the story of Michael, a single dad from New York who has lost his faith after his wife’s death and is struggling to raise his feisty fourteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. When Michael and Elizabeth stumble upon a trapdoor in their church basement, they discover a portal leading back to first-century Jerusalem during the tumultuous last week of Christ’s life. There they encounter Leah, a grieving widow; a menacing soldier who is determined to take Elizabeth as his own; Judas on the last night of his life; and a close-up of the man Jesus. Unable to return to the present, Michael comes face-to-face with some of his most limiting beliefs and realizes he must open himself up to the possibility of a deeper faith in people, in himself, and in love if he is to find his way home.

Discussion Questions

1. Compare Michael and Elizabeth’s relationship with Michael’s relationship with his own father. How are their power struggles and comm see more

About the Author

Michael J. Sullivan
Photograph by Jen Rinaldi

Michael J. Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan is an author and sports writer living in New York who graduated from St. John's University, and is a member of the McDonald's All-American Selection Boys Basketball Committee and the Parade All-American Selection Committee. Michael hosted sports radio shows on WGBB on Long Island, NY, and WEVD 1050AM in New York City, as well as worked with ESPN and Sporting News. In addition to writing the When Time Forgets series, Michael covers high school and college sports for Fox-owned, which involves daily activity on ten to twelve message boards as well as writing approximately 100 articles each month.

Michael has published a number of books through established trade houses, including the trivia book So You Think You're a New Yorker, which was an iconic work lauded by columnist Cindy Adams. In addition, he published seven sports-themed books for children through Enslow, and a volume of a children’s book series through HarperCollins.


Author Revealed

Michael J. Sullivan
Q. how did you come to write Necessary Heartbreak?

A. I first started to write this book while I was riding the E-train in NYC, a few months after I had graduated college back in 1983. I was homeless and I used the emotions churning inside my body to write some childhood and adult memories that move me to this day.

After I was rescued off the train by an aunt and uncle, I found a job and put the novel idea aside. Several years later, I got married, had two kids, and still kept the novel idea inside my computer.

A couple of years ago, I awoke from a dream. I was on the streets of first-century Jerusalem, chasing Jesus, and asking him why do people have to suffer. It's at this moment I found my idea for the book.

Read More



Get a FREE eBook
when you join our mailing list!