With care and verve, Mench breathes new life into ancient Christian Scripture.
Mench (Constantine, 2018, etc.) offers a creative extrapolation on the life and times of the man many know simply as Mark, the author of the second Gospel of the Christian Bible. Mench describes his motives in fleshing out this figure in an author’s note, writing that he “has been conflicted by the lack of personality within the New Testament.” His book is an effort to breathe life back into the Bible. In his own words, Mench “endeavors to add perspective to the message of the testament by creating lives for those who wrote and developed Jesus’ message.” So the author puts flesh on these old bones, spinning a captivating tale of Mark’s (or John Mark’s) birth, meetings with Jesus, and teaching and writing career. But the best part of his novel is that he holds true to the style of the original. Mench’s prose—like Mark’s—is direct, concise, and digestible. Here is just a brief taste from a passage about John Mark’s childhood encounter with Christ: “Soon, Jesus started to speak. John could hear Jesus’ voice now and again, but he couldn’t see him. His driver picked John up and put him on his shoulders.” There is an admirable clarity to the language here—and throughout—that renders Mench’s story intimate and accessible. According to the book of Acts, John Mark is a friend of Paul’s and Barnabas’, and he bops around the ancient Near East spreading the good news of the early church. Mench’s John Mark does the same, but if in the Bible he is a footnote, here he gets his own star turn. Perhaps the only weakness of this well-imagined historical novel is that the author doesn’t provide a bibliography.
An energizing account of the creation of the second Gospel.