An intriguing scholarly hypothesis dryly presented in novelistic form.



A fictional revision of Jesus’ life focuses on the years before his ministry began. 

The span of Yeshua’s life—Jesus is referred to here by the Hebrew version of his name—between the ages of 12 and 30 is historically obscure and therefore ripe for novelistic invention. Mathews (Vicarious Nobel Prize, 2017, etc.) builds a rich construction of those years around the question of Yeshua’s impressive wisdom. How did Yeshua, who came from a family of modest means, acquire his remarkable education? Instead of imagining his knowledge is a revelatory gift, the author explores the possibility that Yeshua is not the son of God but a mere mortal and so, like everyone else, devotes years to laborious study. An intelligent youth whose inquisitiveness flirts with blasphemy, Yeshua attends a Scripture school in Jerusalem on a kind of scholarship and not only studies the authoritative Judaic texts, but also learns Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. He then travels east to Taxila University and studies Buddhism under Guru Acharya Shantideva as well as Hinduism and medical science. Yeshua spends a decade in intense research but longs to return to Jerusalem to see his family and commence his mission, which is to present a less legalistic, more spiritual version of traditional Judaic law. Mathews’ hypothetical vision of Yeshua’s early life—both erudite and provocative—is an exceedingly human rendering. Yeshua falls in love with a girl, and instead of working miracles, he heals the sick with plant-based medicine. (This requires less intractable illnesses—instead of the blind, he cures people who have eye infections.) The author is at his best discussing the intricacies of religious doctrine, especially the theological amalgam he postulates is Yeshua’s reinvented Judaism. But this is closer to a novelistic textbook than a fictional drama—long, aridly composed lectures about religion go on for pages at a time. And when Mathews turns his attention to the personal dimension of Yeshua’s life, he resorts awkwardly to clichés: “This is the first time he has touched me, thought Shakuntala. Let this magic moment last forever.”

An intriguing scholarly hypothesis dryly presented in novelistic form. 

Pub Date: April 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4828-3921-0

Page Count: 178

Publisher: PartridgeIndia

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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