I have read most, if not all, of Anne Rice's previous supernatural and gothic novels, and enjoyed most, if not all, of them. So it was with some trepidation that I began to listen (on audio) to the Christ the Lord series, beginning with Out of Egypt and continuing with The Road to Cana.
I needn't have worried. These are excellent novels, not sanctimonious or even overly pious. In fact, they are very matter-of-fact about Yeshua's combined humanity/divinity and holy mission.
Out of Egypt, which I read a year or so ago (also on audio), begins with Yeshua as a young boy, when he brings a playmate back to life. The other Jews of Alexandria, where His family had fled to escape Herod's massacre, just cannot abide a kid who holds that much power. Although unplanned, it turns out to be a good time to return to Israel, so the family packs up and trundles back to the Holy Land ~ Joseph, Mary, and Yeshua, James the first son of Joseph by a previously deceased wife and his wife and children, Yeshua's uncle Cephas and his wife and children, Little Salome, Yeshua's sister, and assorted other relatives. Before they leave, one of the most influential of the Pharisees (I think that's what he was) of the city pleads with them not to take Yeshua away, as he has the makings of a brilliant biblical scholar, but they leave and take the child Yeshua with them. This novel adheres relatively closely to the New Testament, which made it sometimes a bit dry, though I enjoyed it anyway, perhaps because it was being read to me.
Anyway, The Road to Cana takes up when Yeshua is just about to enter his 31st year and begin his ministry. All the years between settling in Nazareth and now, He has kept hidden his knowledge and power, from those outside his immediate family particularly, but also from then and, as far as I can tell, also from Himself. Now, however, a sense of urgency, of mission, begins to beat in his soul, and he is impelled to break away from His large and loving family, seeking solitude yet feeling isolated. He also begins to struggle in earnest with the natural desires that He cannot help but have in his humanity but which cannot be satiated for the sake of his divine mission.
All is told in Yeshua's voice, with a charming simplicity that allows us to know His deepest sorrows and His even deeper love of Mankind. Much of this second novel of the four-novel series is written without recourse to biblical authority, since much of this part of Yeshua's life is not referred to in the bible, and I found it beautiful.
I've heard the story of the Baptism in the Jordan, the Forty Days in the Wilderness, the Temptation of Satan, and Wedding at Cana before ~ I go to church and have read the New Testament a number of times ~ but Anne Rice makes it all seem fresh and exciting, bringing the "characters" to robust life in all their glory and blemishes. I think I would enjoy the novel even if I were an agnostic, although since I'm not I can't be sure. I only know that I am very much looking forward to Rice's next installment of the life of Yeshua, Christ the Lord.