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John the Baptizer: A Novel Hardcover – June 24, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In fictionalizing the life of John the Baptist, Hansen (The Brotherhood of Joseph) reveals the messy humanity behind the saint. Even readers with a passing knowledge of Christianity will find John's fate laid out on the first page—his head is brought to King Herod upon a platter. Hansen's meticulously researched narrative sets John's life in a wide context, omitting little, for better or for worse: from John's childhood lessons to his emergence as a prophet and his capture and execution, readers find themselves immersed in the biblical world. The visceral descriptions of suffering, such as the death of Herod's father or the cistern in which John is held captive, bring religious figures into the gritty realm of the grotesque. Yet Hansen still retains a sense of wonder in his subjects: when John's mother gives birth after a lifetime of barrenness, or when John baptizes his Messiah-cousin, the flesh-and-blood characters step back into their familiar stained-glass poses and become larger than life. The juxtaposition of stark realism and religious loftiness has its perplexing moments, but it's precisely what will keep the pages turning. (June)
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From Booklist

Few other New Testament narratives adapt so readily to fictionalization as the melodrama of John the Baptist. Hansen imagines not just John’s grisly end but also the whole narrative of his life. In a particularly well realized scene, John’s father, Zechariah, aged and childless, encounters the angel Gabriel, who promises him a son and demands his silence till the baby is born. The political ferment of the times adds many layers of complexity and intrigue. The desert-dwelling Essene community of John’s retreat contrasts with the royal clan’s decadence. Hansen’s tale brings fisherman brothers Andrew and Peter into John’s circle before their encounter with Jesus, Andrew’s river baptism by John ringing with the cadences of Hebrew poetry rendered into vibrant English. Maps and genealogical tables guide readers through the welter of characters. --Mark Knoblauch

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (June 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393069478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393069471
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,160,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Marc Polonsky on December 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm not a Christian, but this impossibly beautiful, compelling story comes close to making me want to convert.

John's spirituality is of an ascetic variety--by comparison, even Jesus himself is viewed as suspiciously profligate (water into wine indeed!) by some of John's most devoted followers--and yet that asceticism seems so appropriate for the context of that time, and John has so much heart it's heartbreaking. The baptism scenes, particularly the baptism of Andrew (told from Andrew's point of view) are so affecting, I'm convinced I could and would have been a follower too. The royal politics that ultimately necessitate John's arrest are intriguing and nuanced and horrifying (of course); John's crisis of faith in prison--the spiritual suffering being so much more profound than the brutal physical punishment they inflict on him--is so poignant and brilliantly rendered . . . and there are so many other elements of sheer storytelling power and archetypal resonance in this work, I come away feeling like I've been holding a book made of fire and the voice of the author is some sort of modern literary version of revealed Truth. Enjoy!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Molly Quinn on June 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I didn't feel like I was reading, but seeing and feeling and experiencing this beautiful, profound and surprising story. I felt like I was reading a classic - A truly important work. If you haven't read any of Mr. Hansen's work before, then read John the Baptizer. I'm not the first to say this, but he really is "the most imaginative and talented novelist of his generation." Read it!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Keleigh Crigler Hadley, author of Revenge Inc. VINE VOICE on June 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
How does that saying go, "Walk a mile in another man's moccasin before you criticize him." ?

After reading John the Baptizer, I felt like I had walked a mile in his sand covered sandals. I used to view John as the comic relief figure in the New Testament. Just another PK that went a little crazy due to all the pressure on him. But, now I view him a great man of faith, vision, and courage.

Hansen wrote a completely engrossing tale that allowed me to empathize with John and the other well drawn supporting characters, i.e. his father the priest, Zechariah.

Oh, now I remember how the saying goes, "Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you're a mile away and have their shoes."

I have no criticism for this well written novel. Well worth your time and money.

Keleigh Crigler Hadley author [...]
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Johanna Cinader on July 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
....just finished reading John the Baptizer and feel as if I am coming back from a fascinating trip.
A very well researched and beautifully written and detailed account of life in Palestine just before the Christian era.
I always thought I knew all about John, I was wrong. I used to be a bit curious about him, now I know him. And all the characters around him.
Thank you Mr. Hansen, a great work, well done.
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