three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
20-Jan-Feb-2006
By: 
Anne Rice
user_rating: 
0

Out of Egypt

A-ChristLordIn a striking departure from her gothic Vampire Chronicles, Rice recreates the life of Jesus at ages seven and eight. From their exile in Egypt, where the family has fled to safety, Jesus, Joseph, Mary, and their extended family return home to Nazareth, where they live pious Jewish lives. Soon Jesus starts to notice his divine abilities; when a bully attacks him, he strikes him dead to the ground and then brings him back to life. He can also detect angels, cause snow to fall, and heal the sick. Amid the context of the Jewish rebellion against Roman rule, the Magi’s visit, and pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Jesus gradually starts to understand his gifts and miraculous birth—and the role he’ll play in bringing peace to the world.
Knopf. 336 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0375412018

Denver Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"No doubt religious scholars will debate the theology in Rice’s effort. But she writes humbly and divulges her research methods along with the authors who inspired her." Lydia Reynolds

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"This is a straightforward tale, set firmly—thanks to Rice’s considerable strengths in research—in the geographic and historical context of the time and faithful to what she refers to as ‘the canonical framework,’ even as it fills in the blank spots with imaginative detail. … We can almost taste the food Jesus would have eaten, experience the sights and sounds, the chaos and bustle of a large clan, with which he would have been familiar." Bernadette Murphy

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The restraint and prayerful beauty of Christ the Lord is apt to surprise her usual readers and attract new ones. … It may prompt nit-picking, but it isn’t likely to polarize." Janet Maslin

Charlotte Observer 3 of 5 Stars
"[T]his novel is slow (not entirely a criticism, just a warning to readers who are addicted to pace)—an adjective that accurately describes what daily life was like in Bible times. … With exacting verisimilitude (which, at times, retards the story and feels a bit intrusive), Rice has daringly imagined a narrative inside Jesus’ own head." James C. Howell

USA Today 3 of 5 Stars
"What you must admire, however, is that Rice is not playing it safe. In ending her own exile from the faith in which she was raised, she is reinventing herself as an artist with the hope, but not the certainty, that readers will follow." Susan Kelly

San Diego Union-Tribune 1 of 5 Stars
"There is something that happens to even the best secular writers when they turn their keyboards toward their faith. … Their usually crisp prose becomes limp with reverence, their riveting dialogue melting into an uninspired puddle." Sandi Dolbee

Critical Summary

Drawing on the Gospels and New-Testament scholarship, Rice responds to the skeptics with Christ the Lord. Critics agree that Rice’s studious research into subjects as diverse as Jewish groups and daily life has produced visceral, historically convincing scenes, though she writes in a leaner style that Vampire readers may find unfamiliar. She generally succeeds in transforming Jesus, a first-person narrator, from an icon into a flesh-and-blood person. However, Jesus, whom Rice approaches with blind veneration, struck some critics as too innocent and simplistic. Christ may not appeal to readers with other religious beliefs; some scholars will debate her theology. It’s important to read the afterword, for there Rice discusses her return to the Catholic Church—and reveals her brave agenda.