cover image The Book of God: The Bible as a Novel

The Book of God: The Bible as a Novel

Walter Wangerin, Jr.. Zondervan Publishing Company, $27.99 (633pp) ISBN 978-0-310-20005-5

""This is not the Bible,"" Wangerin (The Book of the Dun Cow; Miz Lil and the Chronicles of Grace; etc.) says of this newest work. But it is a novel featuring many of the Bible's most dramatic characters. He partitions the whole into eight parts: half focus on personalities (The Ancestors, Kings, Prophets, The Messiah), and half concern themselves with epic themes (The Covenant, The Wars of the Lord, Letters From Exile, The Yearning). Retelling the stories of the Bible in novelized form allows Wangerin to be more selective: no slogging through seemingly endless genealogies or the minutiae of military conflicts for him. Instead, he imagines the finer points of the tension between Sarah and her slave, Hagar; the words Isaac might have used in blessing Jacob; or the drama of Jesus's baptism by his cousin, John. In doing so, he also makes some curious inventions. Does Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, become a justifiably more interesting character, for instance, if he is presented as willingly making nails for the evil ruler Herod to use in crucifixions? For adult readers who are intimidated by the sheer bulk of the Bible, or for those who desire a novelist's different perspective on some very familiar stories, Wangerin is likely to be a welcome voice; for others, however, the novel will feel like an ornate but pale imitation of a great book. (Feb.)