New York Times best-selling author Anne Rice is back with the second installment in her fictionalization of the life of Jesus Christ. Christ The Lord: The Road To Cana picks up in the 33rd year of Jesus' life. He is a grown man now, with aging parents and an older brother, James (described by Rice as Joseph's son by his deceased wife, prior to his marriage to Mary), who can't understand why he refuses to marry and settle down.
As the book opens, Jesus has not yet begun his ministry. The people closest to him – friends, brothers – cannot understand why he refuses to marry. Many do not believe that he is the savior – which we know to be true from the Bible as well. "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" (John 1:46)
We then meet the girl who he wished he could marry. And yet, he knows that he can't marry – that he is God's vessel to save humanity. This part was hard to read. It was difficult to imagine Jesus in love and dealing with those feelings and emotions. However, Rice explains in the author notes at the back of the book that she chose to have her fictional depiction of Jesus deal with this area of life based upon a verse found in Hebrews 4:15, 16:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
The novel continues by following Jesus as he leaves home and journeys to the town of Cana where he performs the miracle that begins his years of ministry – turning water into wine. We see Jesus from many perspectives – believers and non-believers.
There were many parts of the novel that were hard for me to read, for example, seeing Jesus accused and cursed by his neighbors and watching him struggle with things that are so basic to humanity. And yet, when the reader keeps in mind that this is fiction and takes into account the verse above, that he was "tempted in every way – just as we are," it easier to imagine Jesus experiencing life as a man.
Christ The Lord: The Road To Cana left me intrigued, thinking on how the author saw Jesus' life and trying to meld those images with the knowledge and perceptions I already hold. It will be very interesting to see what part of Jesus' life on earth Rice tackles next and how she will portray the years of his ministry.