on March 10, 2008
People fear what they do not understand. But what if you feared yourself?
Jesus, or Yeshua Bar Joseph as he is known to his family, is just past thirty years of age. He is well aware that there are those around him who still whisper about his birth: the Magi, the gifts, the Angel coming to prophecy his coming. But he wants nothing more than to live a normal life amongst his family.
He longs to be a normal man but those around him watch. They wait. The winter has been cruel, dry and no rain has graced the land around them. And so they hope that Jesus will bring great change. It is only a matter of time.
While those around him wait for his greatness to reveal itself, Jesus struggles with his lot in life. In love with a kinswoman, Avigail, Jesus knows that he cannot marry her. He does not know everything that is planned for him, but he knows she is not for him.
Torn inside, Jesus wonders what his lot in life truly is. He wonders how long he will have to wait before his true purpose is made clear to him. When brigands attack Nazareth, Avigail is harmed, shamed. To save her virtue, Jesus prays to God to bring rain.
And he does. When the townspeople come to Jesus to ask him to stop the rain, He again asks God for help; and the rain stops. The whispering around Jesus reaches a fever pitch when news reaches them: Jesus' cousin, John, has emerged from the woods speaking of a prophet, a Messiah. John knows that this Messiah is Jesus.
Now Jesus must come to terms with who he is and his destiny; or succumb to temptation by the Devil...
Having read Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, I was more than eager to get my hands on Anne Rice's new novel Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana. It continues the story of the life of Christ as he heads towards his destiny.
Frankly, I was a little worried. I was worried that the second book wouldn't be as good as the first one. I loved Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt so much. I've read it countless times and it's become one of my all time favourite books. Would The Road to Cana be as breath taking, as incredible, as beautiful?
I needn't have worried. Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana is just as meticulously researched as Out of Egypt was and just as beautiful if not more so. In Out of Egypt we saw Christ as a boy. Now we come to know him far more intimately as he struggles with the man he has to become.
What I love most about this book is that, though Jesus is divine, Rice has done an amazing job of portraying him as human. She has really given us the ultimate study in human nature as Jesus struggles and then accepts what he is, what he must do. She shows us a man who knows what he must do and the sacrifices he makes to do it.
Now, I'm not a Christian. I normally don't read what I would call Christian fiction. Most Christian fiction actually makes me a little uncomfortable. But that doesn't matter. Rice has written a novel that goes beyond the religious aspect of Christianity and embraces the spiritual. This is not a book about religion but a story of love, family, forgiveness and redemption.
You don't have to be a Christian to enjoy this book. I know that there are plenty of people out there who probably don't want to give it a chance based solely off of its subject matter. I've had people scoff at me when I told them how incredible Rice's Christ the Lord books are.
I know that some of you, reading this review, are still scoffing. But they're amazing books, people. And Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana is the best book that Rice has ever written. It transcends genres and religion and is seriously good storytelling and amazing historical fiction. Its prose is like poetry and I was moved beyond words as I read it.
I know that I will be reading Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana again as I eagerly await the next instalment in the life of Jesus.
on April 4, 2016
Writing a fictitious account of Jesus, told from his point of view, no less, is an aspiring feat to be sure. As much as I can appreciate the attempt, I couldn't help being disillusioned.
If this was a life of Jesus, then the focus was all wrong. There was no emphasis on Jesus' innate Godhood, until the book was almost finished. Apparently, all the time before, Jesus "had chosen not to know it" (that he was God). But that contradicts the biblical account in Luke 2:49, when Jesus as a child told his parents, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?" Because Jesus was God, is God, and forever will be, he knew from the beginning, his purpose in life. And he wouldn't have allowed himself to get sidetracked from his ultimate purpose in coming to earth, which was to die.
To suggest the idea of a sacred and holy God as having romantic inclinations, is ludicrous, and brings dishonour and desecration to His Name, imo. I understand this is fiction. However, when it comes to taking liberties with Jesus, I think we should tread most cautiously in how we represent him. Also, I can't fathom the author's implication that Jesus wasn't perfect. The author has him praying, "I am longing for You in Your perfection with this heart that is imperfection!"
No, this wasn't a life of Jesus, like I was led to believe by the front insert description and the title. Rather, this book was based on the lives of other fictitious characters in the town of Nazareth, with Jesus' supposed impressions of them scattered throughout. Besides the discrepancies aforementioned, this was a drawn out, dreary tome, that I never did figure out the point or premise.
on September 22, 2011
I had no plans to ever read this book, despite Anne Rice being one of my favourite authors. Then I found it for $2 (new) in a book store and the bargain ended up being one of my favourite reads this year. The supernatural I enjoyed in the Vampire and Mayfair Chronicles was still there as was Rice's unique language. Many of the stories I learned from years of church were in the book and they were usually cleverly added to (the water and wine story, for example). I haven't heard whether Rice is going to write a third book about Jesus, but I am hoping, after this, that she will.
on March 8, 2011
Anne Rice is an author best known for her series of novels about vampires. A few years ago she came back to her Catholic faith (a process some people call "reversion", to distinguish it from "conversion") and wrote a historical novel about Jesus entitled Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. I never read that book, but the sequel (published in 2008 in hardcover, 2009 in softcover) was eventually sent to me for review. The original book, I understand, was about the child Jesus, including his stay in Egypt as a refugee. This second novel, named Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, picks up with Jesus as a man, just prior to the start of his public ministry.
Before continuing with this review, I should mention that Ms. Rice has since renounced her Catholic faith in a very public manner, and has been spotted posting comments severely critical of the Church on various well-known web sites (such as Jimmy Akin's blog at the National Catholic Register). Some have even taken to calling this her "unversion". At any rate, I am not in a position to make any comments regarding the current state of Ms. Rice's soul. All I have before me is her book, which will stand or fall on its own merits regardless of its author's personal history.
Now there are many forms of historical fiction. Some simply use the backdrop of a particular historical period as a setting to tell stories that have no historical value in themselves. Others use the events and persons of history as characters and plot devices. Finally, some take actual historical events as the narrative of the story itself, and actual historical persons as the protagonists. In this final category there as actually little suspense, as our knowledge of history informs us what actually happened (and therefore, what will happen in the story in question). Such fiction does not explore *what* happened, but *why* it happened: it is an exploration of what might have been motivating the real figures of history, through an explanation of their psychology and perhaps by adding in a few speculative details that history itself has not recorded. Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana is a piece of historical fiction of this third kind. Simply put, Jesus is the protagonist, and we are given a possible interpretation of what might have been going on in his mind as he was on the verge of beginning his public ministry.
On the level of storytelling, I consider that The Road to Cana is largely solidly written. As much of the drama is taking place in Jesus' mind the story requires a special kind of rhythm that could easily slow down, but Ms. Rice manages to keep it moving forward with just enough external action to keep up the pace. Some parts of the story are definitely stronger than others: I found the feminine characters much more believable than the masculine ones, for example, but I consider that more of a quibble than anything. After all, I suppose it is normal that a woman writer be better able to portray a female character than a male one...
Of course, I am not a novelist, so I would rather refrain from offering too many observations regarding the actual artistic merits of her work. Suffice it to say that, while The Road to Cana will not likely go down in history as one of the "great novels", it is a piece of solid writing that treats its subject with respect and even reverence. I am qualified to comment, however, on the theology. Any novel about a spiritual topic is necessarily going to contain a theological vision. How does The Road to Cana measure up?
Let's start by saying what the novel isn't: it isn't heresy. For example, Jesus has brothers and sisters in this book, but they are Joseph's children by a previous marriage (a particular speculation still found in the broader Christian tradition). Biblical scenes and events, such as the baptism of Jesus by John, are portrayed faithfully, and more abstract realities (such as the divine nature of Jesus) come through clearly and unambiguously. Heck, even demons make an appearance, such as in the chapter on the temptations in the desert (my favourite chapter, by the way), or in the exorcism of Mary Magdalene (who, I should add, is spared a Dan-Brown-esque retooling of her story to suit an agenda).
The most interesting theological element of the novel, in my opinion, is the exploration of the mind of Jesus. This is actually a very interesting (and sometimes controversial) theological topic: just how aware was Jesus, in his human mind, of his divine nature? And how much divine knowledge did the human mind of Jesus have access to? For example, in the Bible Jesus at one point says there is something only his Father in heaven knows, and which he (Jesus) does not. Theologians have had a field day for centuries with that statement, because if Jesus is God how can he *not* know something? Such theological speculations can seem like a sideshow, but in a historical novel such as this one, where the inner thoughts and motivations of the characters are the real drama, they are essential to the story. I found Ms. Rice's treatment of these issues to be both creative and orthodox -- a rare combination. I am not saying she solved the conundrums involved (this is only a novel, after all) but she does demonstrate the issues well and shows the elements of an intelligible solution. Well done.
As a final point, it is clear to me that this novel was written as an act of devotion to Jesus Christ. Ms. Rice's care for her subject is obvious. Also obvious is her devotion, at least at the time, for the Catholic Church, whose doctrines are not always shared by other Christians but which she scrupulously avoids offending in this book. While Ms. Rice has since made a public break with the Catholic Church for reasons I believe are more of the heart than the mind, I do pray she has kept her devotion to Christ the Lord himself, and that she may find her home in the Catholic Church once again.