A novel focuses on the childhood and youth of Jesus.
This new work by Fuja (a follow-up to his 2014 debut novel, Favored) takes up the familiar story of the boyhood of Jesus of Nazareth, from the Bethlehem cave of his birth to his entry into his public ministry and the recruitment of his disciples. But the bulk of this volume centers on Jesus’ boyhood, situating him in the middle of a warm and extended family: not just his parents, but also his grandparents and cousins such as Mary’s kinswoman Elizabeth; her husband, Zechariah; and their son John, who will grow up to become John the Baptist. In this version of the Bible story, Joseph is 19 and Mary 15 when Jesus is born. Three Persian wise men—Balthazar, Kaspar, and Melchior—visit the cozy family. Meanwhile, the whole of Judea suffers under the tyranny of the murderous King Herod the Great. As the affable Joseph makes friends everywhere (including the Roman centurion Gaius Longinus, who will intersect with the life of Jesus in later years), the narrative fleshes out the Gospel stories. Young “Yeshua,” raised and loved by his parents, plays with his cousin John. Fuja presents all of this in a refreshingly modern-sounding idiom; for instance, at one point the grandmother of young John confesses, “I hate to say this, but I think my grandson is goofy.” Juxtaposed with this warm familial setting are long and fascinating sections on the hateful sons of Herod the Great, who scheme and plot against each other upon their father’s death. The crown goes to the vile Archelaus, whose brother Herod Antipas is at first grateful to be allowed to live. Antipas’ wife, the demonic Herodias (in a wonderful detail, readers are told she attended “clandestine gatherings of idol worshipers in the high places”), feels less satisfied with her lot, and the dramatic payoff of the book involves her evil scheming. Fuja blends all these elements into a contemporary-feeling narrative that grows stronger as it progresses.
A vividly accessible dramatization of the well-known Gospel stories of Jesus’ early years.