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Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 4, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 259 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Life of Christ Series

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Editorial Reviews

From The Washington Post

God -- in the singular or plural, as deity or idea -- has always been a great subject. From the Bible onward, a host of serious writers including Dante, Milton and Dostoyevsky has wrestled with divinity. More recently, there are so many examples that, in the words of St. John, "I suppose that even the world itself could not contain them." God has figured in a modern version of midrash (a Jewish term for tale-spinning extrapolated from biblical text) by Jenny Diski, who retold the story of Abraham and Sarah in Only Human, and by David Maine, who retold the story of Noah last year in The Preservationist and that of Adam and Eve in this season's Fallen. Among the renderings of Jesus have been Jim Crace's sensuous isolate in Quarantine and Norman Mailer's ecstatic bombaster in The Gospel According to the Son.

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.

From Booklist

In the author's note at the end of her new novel, Rice says that when she set out to write this one, she wanted to write not about a hypothetical, revisionist Jesus but about Jesus as he's rendered in the Gospels. Seven-year-old Jesus narrates the story of his extended family's trek from Alexandria, Egypt, to Nazareth. The novel opens with the death and resurrection of Eleazer, both of which young Jesus is responsible for. After an angry mob shows up on Joseph and Mary's doorstep, they decide to leave Egypt in favor of the Holy Land, despite the protests of Jesus' teacher and Philo, a nobleman who has taken an interest in the thoughtful boy. But Joseph will not be swayed, and the family sets sail, with aunts, uncles, and cousins in tow as well. The journey is not an easy one, and more hardship awaits them in Jerusalem, which is in turmoil after the death of corrupt King Herod, and in Nazareth, which is overrun with Roman soldiers. By no means presenting a radical version of Jesus, Rice does an admirable job of rendering Jesus' compassion, his curiosity about the world and other people, and his youthful feelings. A decided and daring departure from her usual fare, Rice's latest should draw many curious readers. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Christ the Lord
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (March 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400043522
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400043521
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (259 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When Anne Rice first announced her intentions to tell the story of Christ the Lord, she was met with a barrage of questions, criticism, and support. Her storytelling to date had given only subtle hints of her desire to stir the soul toward things of God, and in fact some blamed her for quite the opposite. With great skepticism, readers on both sides of spiritual lines awaited the release of "Out of Egypt." I found the book to be intriguing, elegantly understated, yet a bit dry.

"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.
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Format: Hardcover
On the invocation page of this fine novel Anne Rice includes a quote from Karl Rahner which is very important for interpreting her project: "The truth of the faith can be preserved only by doing a theology of Jesus Christ, and by redoing it over and over again." This is indeed what Anne Rice is doing in this series of books: doing a theology of Jesus in narrative form. A very specific conception of Christian belief takes shape in these pages: one in which evil derives mostly from misunderstandings, impatience and limitations of perspective (the stoning of the two young boys suspected of homosexuality is bound to be controversial), Time is a gift which makes life worth living and the power of God is most evident in the simple pleasures of life, in a "vast, vital world of blowing wheat and shining sun" (p.198) Whatever one makes of its orthodoxy, it is a powerful, heartfelt, deeply thoughtful vision that should be taken seriously by theologically minded people.

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.
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I received my copy of Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana mid-morning - I couldn't stop reading - read it almost straight through - Jesus' story, told first person, envelopes you into the emotions that must have been part of this Son of God, who was born of a Virgin, yet still was a man in every sense - The Road to Cana finds Jesus around 30 years of age - a turbulent time for the area - Jews are butting heads with Roman officials...the area is tense. There is a drought in the area - an analogy for the drought of belief?
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.
Excellent.
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!
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