Anne Rice,
Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2005)

Of writing this book, which could have been an absolute disaster for her, Anne Rice states in her author's note: "I wanted to write the life of Jesus Christ. I had known that years ago. But now I was ready. I was ready to do violence to my career. I wanted to write the book in the first person. Nothing else mattered."

The story opens with 7-year-old Jesus bar Joseph playing in the Street of Carpenters in Alexandria, the place he has lived (as far as he's concerned) his entire life, when a bully falls dead at his feet. In the ensuing uproar, the little boy slips into the dead bully's room and asks him to wake up, which he does. In the midst of the new uproar, Joseph announces that he and his family are leaving Egypt and returning to the Holy Land.

During their journey little Jesus begins to understand that secrets about his family, about himself, are being kept from him. Why, for instance, he doesn't call Joseph "Father" as his brother James does. Why the family left the Holy Land for Egypt to begin with. What the talk of angels visiting his parents means. These secrets weigh on Jesus, until he needs to know the answers -- but Joseph has forbidden anyone to speak to him of it.

Rice has done an amazing job with this novel. Told from 7-year-old Jesus's point of view, the language is simple and clear, as befits a child. Jesus is shown to be a normal boy growing up in unsettled times. He loves his family; he loves the Lord. He doesn't understand those times when he can sense something larger within himself, or when his prayers appear to be answered. He is, above all things, just a child.

You really have to admire Rice's chutzpah. There aren't too many writers out there who would take on a project like this, to bring to life the early years of Jesus Christ. But you have to admire her even more for making Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt a readable, even compelling novel.

by Laurie Thayer
14 April 2007

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