Denise Day Spencer

December 11, 2007

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

Filed under: Book review — denisedayspencer @ 3:43 pm

Since I was a child, I have loved to read the Bible. But in addition to reading the words on the page, I have also loved to speculate about the sentences that are not there. Some call that “reading between the lines.” You may call it an over-active imagination. I realize that when studying the word of God such a thing can be tricky, even dangerous.

Yet there is a definite place for it, I believe, in the arts. It’s what I’ve always done when writing Biblical skits and plays. Characters must be fleshed out. An writer must fill in the gaps that are there in every Bible story if it is to be turned into a drama or a novel. If the reader can appreciate Bible-based fiction for the sake of the story, the author’s speculation can lead the reader to wonder, to question and dig deeper, even to worship.

And with that we come to Anne Rice’s novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005) The front cover bears the words “a novel” under the title, perhaps to drive home the points I made above. This is Rice’s twenty-sixth book, and the first in a planned series about the life of Christ. She writes as a Roman Catholic believer, evidenced by a few subtle references to Apocryphal writings.

It was my first Rice novel, so I cannot compare it to any other. Yet I can already tell you that it won’t be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.

When I opened the novel to the first page, I already knew that it was a fictionalized account of the early years of Jesus’ life. I did not know, however, that Rice would tell the tale in first person–in the words of the young Lord Himself. I was shocked. “Wow!” I said to Michael. “She’s really brave!” I suppose writing from the perspective of a child wasn’t so risky, but how will she speak from the mind of Christ when her divine leading character is a teenager? An adult? My curiosity alone will keep me going back for more.

Rice does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of Jewish life in that place and time. Sometimes the narrative is slow-paced to the point of feeling repetitive, but that may be by design. The reader is particularly drawn into the large, extended family lifestyle, where characters are always surrounded by parents, siblings, uncles and cousins. In one particularly memorable scene, eight-year-old Jesus goes off by himself to lie in the grass and look up at the sky–and suddenly realizes this is the first time in his life that he’s ever been alone.

Though the book is written in past tense, Jesus narrates the tale from a child’s point of view. The reader shares his wonder, his confusion and his anxiety. One of book’s touches of quiet brilliance is the manner in which the author describes the young Christ emotionally. He is just becoming aware of powers, thoughts and feelings that are, at times, absolutely overwhelming to him. Rice’s Jesus, though still a young child, is already struggling as the mix of divine and human seem to make him somehow more of a person than can be housed in one small body.

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt is a mystery in a way, and that’s what propels the story. The reader already knows what Jesus doesn’t yet comprehend about his identity and his mission. The Christ child is driven by a curiosity about the events surrounding his birth–mysterious events none of the grown-ups in his life want to talk about. As he discovers more and more of the truth, Jesus at last, in childlike faith, begins to embrace his destiny.

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3 Comments »

  1. […] Denise Spencer reviews “Out of Egypt” by Anne Rice. Posted by: Michael Spencer @ 5:35 pm | Trackback | Permalink […]

    Pingback by The Boar’s Head Tavern » — December 11, 2007 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

  2. Denise, thanks for the review and the reminder. I bought the book awhile back in audiobook form, but I never finished it. That will be a Christmas project.

    Comment by Randy — December 11, 2007 @ 4:58 pm | Reply

  3. Hi Denise,
    I JUST finished reading this book last week, and LOVED it. I loved the exquisite attention to all the historical details of what Jesus’ life would have been like. I loved imagining with her what it felt like to be a 7 year old with a 7 yo’s understanding and emotions, yet also be God. I thought the way Rice worked that out was a plausible portrait. And I found the picture of the young Jesus very engaging.

    I have now waded into Walt Wangerin’s novel: Jesus. I’m also enjoying that–it’s told from the alternating perspectives of Mary and John the Beloved. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far it’s 2 thumbs up.

    Laura

    Comment by LauraH — December 11, 2007 @ 7:20 pm | Reply


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