Schenck (The Birdcatcher, 2013, etc.) offers a novel about the life of Jesus Christ.
Beginning some time before birth of Jesus (Yehoshua in the text), this fictionalized rendering of his life focuses not just on the savior himself but on a wide range of supporting characters, from Herod to Satan to a Roman soldier with a fondness for Jesus’ mother. To that end, the author interposes a broad mix of history, fiction and the supernatural to create a portrait of epic proportions. The reader follows along during such famous events as the Assumption, the crucifixion and the resurrection, as Yehoshua’s life plays out not just as a religious occurrence, but as a political one as well: What did the coming of a messiah mean to the people of Judea, as well as to the Romans who ruled them? Schenck offers regular contrasts between the decadence of Rome and the morality of those under its yoke, and the savior is portrayed as a guiding light in an otherwise murderous, untrustworthy time. Such a portrayal is somewhat unsurprising, although the story is noteworthy for its breadth of context, which details the madness of Herod’s rule and includes such relatively obscure figures as the Egyptian pharaoh Necho. Readers already familiar with the events surrounding Jesus’ life will likely feel that this book doesn’t break much new ground, and they may find figures such as Satan almost comical (particularly when he taunts Yehoshua as a “son-of-a-bitch born from the bowels of a whore”). Likewise, other characters tend to offer obvious remarks, as when a teenager receives a miracle and cries out, “Yes, I do believe in you Lord!”
An ambitious novel that, despite a wide range of characters, sheds little new light on the story of Jesus’ life.