GOSPEL by Wilton Barnhardt


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 To those who've eagerly awaited Barnhardt's follow-up to his acclaimed debut novel, Emma Who Saved My Life (1989), this long- winded and lame excuse for an epic adventure will be a rude surprise. The theme itself has merit: an oft-rumored, seldom-seen Gospel written by the ``Thirteenth Apostle,'' Matthias, surfaces, prompting a race to acquire and translate it, because it supposedly reveals the truth about the Resurrection and false paths taken by Christ's other disciples. Foremost in the running are O'Hanrahan, an aging, alcoholic ex-Jesuit with an encyclopedic mind in matters theological, whose early success in deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls led only to a lifetime of colorful adventures and scholarly mediocrity, and Lucy, a meek, inexperienced graduate student in his Department of Theology at the University of Chicago sent to track him down, who blossoms under the old reprobate's tutelage as she becomes his tenacious assistant and drinking buddy. Allied with a secretive rabbi from Jerusalem, they chase the Gospel and its meaning from Ireland to Africa, and are chased by a mÇnage of misfits in turn, until an alliance of born-again elements from Louisiana and the CIA capture them, bringing them home to evangelist country, where the mysteries of the document finally come to light. Sadly, the prominence of travelogue commentaries and endless ephemera from centuries of Church history strip the saga of any momentum, turning the characters into mere markers on a map of the ancient world as it is today, who are moved only to be left beached like whales on the next exotic shore. Full of historical, religious, and comic flourishes, but misfiring terribly: this is interesting mostly for what it might have been.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-08802-7
Page count: 832pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993


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