Rice continues the story of Jesus, which she began with 2005’s stunning Out of Egypt.
Silent Hannah, a deaf mute, claws the air. She’s just heard that her brother, the Orphan, and Yitra, another beautiful boy, have been stoned by a viciously self-righteous crowd. The murdered boys were doomed by rumors of their forbidden love. Comforting Hannah with his strange serenity, is Yeshua bar Joseph, or Yeshua the Sinless, another townsman about whom the Nazarenes whisper: Past 30 and still unmarried? Fitfully sure of his destiny—his spiritual intuitions come upon him like spasms—Jesus senses that ordinary life is divinely denied him. He is smitten with Avigail, Silent Hannah’s best friend and the town’s angelic beauty, but knows that his love must be chaste. So when marauding brigands attempt to kidnap her, his rescue of the girl is tender but irreproachable. Not so, however, believes her furiously possessive father. Sealing her into his house, he makes her a horrific example of shunning; with patriarchal perversity, he blames the almost-rape victim for “allowing” herself to be attacked. And Jesus becomes suspect, with Avigail’s father making insinuations about the young people’s connection. To find her shelter, Jesus journeys to Cana, there to petition the scribe Hananel to intercede. Its subplots detailing the machinations of Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas, the Essene struggle toward a purer faith and the flight of some of Jesus’s comrades to Athens to study philosophy, this is painstakingly researched historical fiction.
Rice’s Christ is both convincing and compelling. Another winner.