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Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 4, 2008
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Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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From The Washington Post
Now, say you had to guess the living writer least likely to feel compelled to enter this quest. How about Anne Rice? Known for multi-volume sagas of vampire lore and quasi-literary erotica, Rice has found religion in her new novel, Christ the Lord. On the surface ridiculous, this odd pairing actually makes sense if you consider the vampire Lestat and Jesus as flip sides of the same coin. Both are suffering young men who exist eternally, one by taking life, the other by giving it. And blood figures prominently in their stories.
The notion of Jesus à la Rice has a lot of appeal, especially after reading the first page of her previous book, Blood Canticle, which promises the lures she has reliably provided throughout her career: "a full-dress story . . . with a beginning, middle and end . . . plot, character, suspense, the works." Well, she may deliver elsewhere but not here; these niceties of narrative are uniformly missing from Christ the Lord.
As for the plot, it's a year in the life of a rather plodding 7-year-old boy. As for suspense, he discovers that several mysterious events attended his birth, but we already know that, and so do all the other characters, who are made entirely of cardboard. Mary is innocent; Joseph steadfast; Mary's brother Cleopas laughs so continuously that he might as well be at a vaudeville show; and James, the savior's older brother, glowers throughout the book with big-time sibling rivalry.
Perhaps we could tolerate a one-dimensional cast as long as the narrator/protagonist came alive on the page, but Rice's childhood Jesus is a cipher at the center of the book. Of course, he's also a cipher in Scripture. Interpretations of his nature differ among the four canonical Gospels -- priest, prophet, king or God -- and his early years are virtually a blank slate except for a few tantalizing legends that tell how the young Jesus breathed life into clay birds and, more shocking, killed a local bully. Rice aims to explore this apocryphal domain, but her Jesus is like no other child, not merely because he's begotten by the Creator of the universe but because he shows hardly an ounce of spunk or curiosity. He never burns as either a child or an incipient deity.
Nor do the surroundings of this fabulous tale provide any greater reward. At the beginning of the book, Jesus's family leaves a sojourn in Egypt to enter into a tumultuous Judea. King Herod the elder has just died, and the population is stuck between contending Roman soldiers, rebels and pillaging bandits. But this potentially dynamic setting remains inert. Aiming for scrupulousness based on her self-described extensive research, Rice takes no imaginative leaps and refuses to offer any but the scantest of detail. For example, she describes Jerusalem's Holy Temple as "a building so big and so grand and so solid . . . a building stretching to the right and to the left" so that the reader sees effectively nothing. In fact, real research would have provided abundant imagery, from the billowing purple curtains that veiled the Holy of Holies to the zodiac symbols embroidered upon them.
Worse still, clumsy and outright ungrammatical prose infects every page. For instance, we're told, "Joseph and Mary were cousins themselves of each other, that meant happiness for both of them." Presumably aiming for the resounding echoes of biblical syntax, Rice is merely redundant, so much so that the 300-plus pages of this book feel infinitely longer. Here's a sample of dialogue. Mary says, "Think of all the signs. . . . Think of the night when the men from the East came." Then Joseph says, "Do you think anybody there has forgotten that? Do you think they've forgotten anything. . . . They'll remember the star. . . . They'll remember the men from the East," to which Mary replies, "Don't say it, please. . . . Please don't say those words."
Likewise, the consciousness of the Jesus who narrates is repetitive as well as uninformative. Meeting cousin Elizabeth for the first time, Jesus notes, "I thought her face pleasing in a way I couldn't put into words to myself." Then he describes himself as having "the mind of a child who had grown up sleeping in a room with men and women in that same room and in other rooms open to it, and sleeping in the open courtyard with the men and women in the heat of summer, and living always close with them, and hearing and seeing many things," none of which he shares with us.
Stunned into earnestness by a personal tragedy that she refers to in an afterword, Rice cannot summon any of the literary blood that throbbed through her multiple neck-biters. She strives diligently, but she's so respectful that no messy humanity whatsoever comes from her deity. Christ the Lord is more of an act of personal devotion than the fulfillment of an acknowledgedly audacious fictional concept. It will neither offend believers the way author Nikos Kazantzakis and director Martin Scorsese did in "The Last Temptation of Christ" nor satisfy evangelicals as did Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." Instead, both audiences are likely to be bored.
Whether Jesus was the soul of mercy or, as some historians have claimed, a political rabble-rouser, the one quality he must have had in order to live through the millennia was spirit. It's the one great quality the Bible has in abundance, as revealed by either the chiseled spareness of Everett Fox's translation of Genesis or the luscious oratory of King James. Rice has sucked the life out of the greatest story ever told.
Reviewed by Melvin Jules Bukiet
Copyright 2005, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
"The Road to Cana" takes a big chronological leap forward, and the storytelling seems to reflect the maturation of her subject. Yeshua bar Joseph (Jesus of Nazareth) is now a man on the brink of embracing his identity and his purpose. He's God in the flesh, as he himself knows, but he also struggles with the human desires for companionship, family, and acceptance. His relatives and the local villagers sometimes call him Yeshua, the Sinless.
From the opening pages of this book, there are layers of meaning and beauty. Rice's story meets every expectation in this, her second christological novel, and I was swept up in the drama of village life, relational conflicts, and restrained divinity. Rice, through Yeshua's eyes, lets us in for peeks at the heart of God, as it relates to the human struggle. This culminates in Yeshua's face-off with Satan in the wilderness, during forty days of fasting--a masterpiece of textured prose--and in the following incident with Mary of Magdala. From there, Rice shifts her story from conflict into beauty, as Yeshua verbalizes his purpose to his new followers and his family.
I am not moved often to tears by books, but "The Road to Cana" touched me in deep ways, reminding me again of the honesty and integrity of Christ the Lord.Read more ›
As a novel it is fairly well-written and as fascinating as the first book in its depiction of the historical and social reality of the 1st Century. Jesus' longing for Avigail is poignant, although Rice treads delicately here, as many Christians would probably be offended if they saw Jesus portrayed as having actual lustful thoughts. There is more than a hint of apocryphal material here, as in Jesus' comment to his brother that "Heaven and earth were made for you, James. You'll come to understand", which is from the Gospel of Thomas. Interestingly, the book is at its best when speculating about Jesus's life where the Gospels are silent.Read more ›
I cannot begin to describe the beauty of Rice's writing - We Christians know the actions of this early time of His Ministry - when all the pieces come together and His path is revealed - Jesus' family, his kith and kin, (including a beautiful kinswoman Avigail). It is mesmerizing. And beautiful, powerful, reverent.
This series is amazing. The beginnings - a montage of the first of Jesus' ministry - from casting out demons to baptism with John the Baptist to the miracle of changing water into wine at Cana - I especially like how the wine transformation was handled - the sweetness between Jesus and Mary handled perfectly - I am in awe. Rice does justice to the Lord - the Son of God -
One hopes she spreads out Jesus' story out in many, many sequels.
My niece is going on a trip for a Church project to help an orphanage in Guatemala, and I told her I am giving her Rice's two books about Jesus to read on the plane and to share with her friends who are going with the group. She knows I don't recommend books unless they touch me.
Been a while I have been drawn literally into a book, and Rice has hit her stride with this series!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well thought out and well written plot. The characters seem real. A really good read and I enjoyed it immensely.Published 1 day ago by Lyman W. Morris
A fictional story of Jesus, written in first person. Imaginative and reverent.Published 1 month ago by S.Z. M.
I could not help but think back to the novel Memnoch The Devil, and the scene where Lestat encounters The Lord out in the middle of the desert. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Cherryl Walker
It's as good as it can get given the authoress' background. For starters, she is an American and is badly influenced by the action movies format that puts a limit to both the depth... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Not as compelling as the first installment, but it does put a very human spin on Jesus' struggles.Published 2 months ago by Cynthia Titman
It took me a couple of years to get from Out of Egypt to the Road to Cana, but it was well worth the wait. The book is as good as I expeced it to be, based on the first one. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Valentina Kelis