Let me start off with a disclaimer; as one who calls themselves a ‘Christian’, or follower of Christ, I seldom read fiction by those of my own tribe. Why? Because too often the characters, especially if they are taken from the Bible, are more saint than human. Which means that no matter how good or how bad the writing is, the reader, in my not so humble opinion, is left feeling as if they themselves are somehow ‘less than’. The result being, I prefer reading novels from other tribes where the characters, even if they are fictional, are far more human than not.
So we can all imagine my delight when I came across this little jewel. And I do mean jewel. A story about a very famous man – Judas Iscariot.
Famous not for any good deeds or heroic acts of courage or even for life transforming parables or quips he might have contributed to the world and society of his day. But rather, famous for being the man reported in the Gospels to have been responsible for betraying his best friend Jesus of Nazareth, to the Sanhedrin.
A betrayal that many claim to have led to Jesus death and crucifixion.
Now Lee is not the first to tackle this highly immortalized villain. When you look for other interpretations on the subject of Judas Iscariot, you find such creative works as Dante‘s Inferno, The Taking of Christ by Italian Baroque artist, Caravaggio, Martin Scorsese‘s film The Last Temptation of Christ, and even a vampire film called Dracula 2000 (to name just a few).
But unlike these other flights of imagination, where Judas is portrayed as the ‘evil’ betrayer of Christ, Tosca Lee decides to follow in the footsteps of Taylor Caldwell‘s 1978 novel I, Judas. and tell us another story. One that talks about the son of Simon Iscariot who loved God, loved the Torah, and loved another man named Jesus. The very one whom many of that day, believed to be the promised messiah; a prophet of God whom Jewish tradition foretold would come and lead the nation of Israel to conquer the world.
And like a master bard of old, Lee weaves a story whose words reach deep into the heart and soul of her readers, where they then seduce us into seeing and hearing the story of Judas Iscariot – from the heart and soul of Judas Iscariot. A fatherless son, a desperate youth, a disillusioned man and in the end, a friend whose heart was broken when he realized the truth of who Jesus really was, and what he himself had done.
Again, in my not so humble opinion, if you read no other book this year, than you owe it to yourself to read ‘Iscariot, A Novel of Judas’. Why? Because not only is it a really well written book, with vibrant characters and rich narrative, but it will touch your soul, for good and bad, in ways you can’t even imagine.
On my readers scale of 1-5 stars, I’m giving Tosca Lee’s ‘Iscariot, A Novel of Judas’ 4.5 for story, and 5 for having the courage to tell the story of a man….rather than a sinner.