Strange, true, and exciting fiction about the early Jesus movement.




A novel offers a religious-political-erotic romp through first-century West Asia—and a primer on the story of Christian origins.

It is often assumed that Christianity was born with Jesus—and that the church emerged fully formed on that first Easter. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the first few centuries after Christ’s death played host to a fierce battle among competing interpretations of the Jesus movement. Motz’s (The Cosmic Lady Was Right, 2009) head-spinning tale is set smack dab in the middle of all this Sturm und Drang, and it follows the exploits of Marcellus, a kind of test case for the many flavors of early Christianity. He flirts with Mithraism in his youth, becomes initially attached to the proto-Roman Catholic Bishop Ignatius, but finds himself also drawn to the Gnostic sects flourishing at the time. If you don’t know what all these words mean, that’s fine: read Motz’s book, which is, among other things, a religious studies textbook masquerading as a sexy novel (“Marcellus is philosophizing again. It’s what every person in the world wants most: one gigantic mind-blowing orgasm, the ultimate thrill”). Suffice it to say that Marcellus’ story is both an engaging yarn and an alluring glimpse at what might have been had the wars over the meaning of Jesus turned out differently. From one angle, this book is historical fiction; the author strives to give life and color to the ancient world. But in doing so, he takes some license, and there are anachronisms and modernisms. These are intentional: Motz says he is seeking a “higher species of authenticity.” Readers should forgive the author such grandiloquence because his project largely succeeds. As for the religious studies aspect, Motz says that those who want to know more should “Google it, see for yourself.” Sure. But first read G.R.S. Mead. Then peruse Elaine Pagels, Marvin Meyer, and Karen King. Academic work on early Christianity is progressing at a dizzying pace, and perhaps the only flaw of Motz’s novel is that it doesn’t come with a bibliography.

Strange, true, and exciting fiction about the early Jesus movement.

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5212-8409-4

Page Count: 251

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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