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Conversion tales are perennially popular, but there is less of an audience for stories about what comes after — the daily struggle to live out your faith when the first rush of revelation (what T. S. Eliot called “the infirm glory of the positive hour”) has passed; or worse, the slide back into skepticism. “Saul had undergone a mutation on the road to Damascus,” Emmanuel Carrère writes of history’s most famous convert in The Kingdom (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28), his idiosyncratic history of the early Christian Church, translated by John Lambert. “He had been transformed into Paul, his opposite. . . . What if he became Saul once again?”

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