Children of God

Lars Petter Sveen, trans. from the Norwegian by Guy Puzey. Graywolf (FSG, dist.), $16 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-55597-820-4
Sveen’s inventive novel, his English-language debut, hinges on a daring conceit. Spanning the lifetime of Jesus Christ and featuring many familiar Biblical characters, Sveen’s stories focus on marginalized and forgotten people, such as prostitutes and thieves, as protagonists. The book opens with “Little Children,” in which a group of mercenaries have been hired to kill all the Jewish children in Bethlehem. Just as some of the mercenaries are second-guessing what they’ve been tasked to do, a strange blind man emerges, realigning their mind-sets. He is a character who appears throughout the book, whether it’s in “The Black Bird,” where he attempts to reclaim Anna, having saved her from death years ago at the hands of her lover, or in “Martha’s Story,” where Martha and the old man must trade stories in exchange for Martha and her siblings’ lives. The old man becomes a truly sinister personification of the Devil, and his role in this book is a reminder of the porousness of the border between good and evil, devotion and negligence. Devoid of proselytizing and written in muscular, gritty prose (“And Martha can feel she doesn’t like evenings best anymore. Everything gets so dark. What if the light never comes back?”), Sveen has brilliantly remade an old story into something compulsively readable and chillingly modern. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/27/2018
Release date: 10/16/2018
Genre: Fiction
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