Nino Ricci, Author . Houghton Mifflin $25 (464p) ISBN 978-0-618-27353-9

Gently stripping the life of Jesus bare of its mythical trappings, Ricci (The Book of Saints, etc.) presents a lyrical, searching version of the biblical tale, grounding his work in the historical realities of the time and telling Jesus' story from four different perspectives. Two of the novel's narrators, Judas and Jesus' mother, Mary, eschew supernatural explanations of Jesus' ministry and describe him as an eccentric, depressive genius. The other two narrators, Mary Magdalene and a shepherd named Simon of Gergesa, witness moments in Jesus' ministry that they believe to be otherworldly. Set against each other, these four accounts reveal the ways in which ordinary acts come to seem miraculous, through repetition and suggestion. The biblical interpretation of key events is re-examined, too. In Ricci's novel, the pretext for Jesus' arrest and eventual crucifixion is not his betrayal by Judas, but his association with him, since Judas is part of an insurrectionist group. And when Jesus' body disappears from the tomb, Simon of Gergesa assumes this has to do with the practice of paying Roman guards to look the other way while family members claim crucified bodies. At a deeper level, Ricci seeks to present Jesus as a man whose powers spring simply from great compassion and the ability to see beyond appearances. Ricci's lucid, thoughtful storytelling and his ability to shed fresh light on an oft-told tale makes this a valuable entry in the annals of fiction inspired by the Gospels, from Renan's Life of Jesus to Jim Crace's Quarantine. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/21/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Ebook - 978-0-307-37508-7
Open Ebook - 464 pages - 978-0-547-34951-0
Hardcover - 455 pages - 978-0-385-65854-6
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-1763-7
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-385-65855-3
Paperback - 457 pages - 978-0-618-44667-4
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