cover image Jesus: A Novel

Jesus: A Novel

Walter Wangerin, Jr.. Zondervan, $19.99 (391pp) ISBN 978-0-310-26673-0

Falling solidly within the genre of Wangerin's previous novels, this book often feels more like a Eugene Peterson–style paraphrase of the New Testament than an actual work of fiction. While Wangerin invents dialogue, events and characters that go beyond the biblical text, these inventions do little more than provide context for his retelling of the bulk of the four Gospel accounts. As always, Wangerin writes beautiful, descriptive prose, evoking the sights, sounds, smells, sensibilities and politics of the world in which Jesus lived. He nicely develops the character of Jesus' mother, but most of the other characters—including Jesus himself—are not adequately fleshed out, as Wangerin tends to use physical descriptions and one or two trademark mannerisms in lieu of full characterization. Judas Iscariot is tall, thin, young and manic; Simon Peter is burly and gregarious; and Mary Magdalene is a strong but tiny wisp of a woman whom everyone refers to as a child. Wangerin innovates a bit by alternating between third- and first-person narration, sharing Jesus' mother's perspective in the third person and the gospel writer John's in the first. Readers looking for a well-written novel that rarely veers from an entirely orthodox depiction of Jesus will appreciate this effort. (Nov.)