An ambitious novel offers an unconventional retelling of Jesus’ story.
The latest book from Alisa (I’m Having It, 2015) delivers a long, lavishly detailed narrative that recounts the experiences of the first-century figure known to Christianity as Jesus of Nazareth. Many of the familiar outlines of his history are in place: a small community of “Nazoreans” living on the Judean fringes of the Roman Empire, a boy born of the House of David whose father is Joseph and whose mother is Mary, a public ministry inaugurated by John the Baptist and carried out before huge crowds, an eventual confrontation with the Romans, etc. To this well-known account Alisa adds a wealth of intriguing twists and turns. Her “Yeshua” is a quasi-supernatural being virtually from birth, attuned to senses other boys don’t have and guarded and counseled by energy beings only he can see. As his personal powers burgeon with puberty, he leaves the Essene community of his parents and travels to a monastery in India and, from there, to an extremely exclusive retreat called the Temple of Man. Only news of his father’s illness and impending death prompts him to return to Judea, bringing with him an array of mystical abilities and, in a striking twist, an addiction to opium that plagues him and prompts him to seek a detox program with a local female healer. This captivating Jesus falls in love with his Mary—Miriam—and marries her, but he feels he must embrace his true calling (“With Miriam by my side, I felt complete,” Yeshua muses. “It seemed as though it was truly time for me to bring my truth to bear and expand my teachings”). His undertaking’s basic parameters will be recognizable to readers, a mission of preaching and moral guidance (and miracles that take on some fascinating new dimensions in light of the mystical training that Yeshua has experienced) that ends in seeming tragedy and a survival beyond death. Alisa writes all of this with a superb ear for dialogue and a sense of pacing that’s sure-footed enough to keep this long novel from ever feeling bloated.
A magical, passionate version of the life of Jesus unlike anything taught in Sunday school.