I think I've said this before, but I love me some Tosca Lee.
. . . ahem
That sounded better in my head before I typed it out. Let me rephrase:
I am a huge fan of Tosca Lee's writings. I was mesmerized by Demon: A Memoir.I absolutely adored Havah.When she started talking about the "Big Scary" on her blog, I wondered what on earth it could be. Then she announced that she would be tackling the life of Judas Iscariot.
And now we finally have the fruits of her labors. I simply devoured Iscariot: A Novel of Judas shortly after it arrived. I simply couldn't help myself.
We all know what the Bible tells us about Judas which is, basically, nothing. He's called Judas Iscariot. His dad's name was Simon. He's the treasurer of the disciples and a thief. He betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. And he later regretted his actions and killed himself.
That's not a lot to go on, but Lee did an incredible job with less when it came to Eve.
The picture she paints of Judas is one of a man consumed by his own uncleanness and insufficiency. Caught up in the revolts that took place after Herod the Great died, young Judas finds himself defiled by the actions of his family, particularly his mother. Worse, bitterness and rage consume him in his adult life, thanks to the actions of Pontius Pilate. He's a pious Jew, one who yearns for salvation for his people. More importantly, he needs that salvation for himself.
It's little wonder that he winds up gravitating toward a certain itinerant preacher from Nazareth.
In Lee's book, Judas comes to life as a man who longs for what he sees to be true, but who continually stumbles over himself. Even though we know how this story is going to end (a fact that Lee tips her hat to by starting the book with the "Epilogue"), you want Judas to find what he's looking and longing for.
But what I find truly fascinating is Lee's portrayal of Jesus.
This is always a bit of a risk, when an author tries to write for Christ. Stray from the Biblical text too much, and Jesus comes off as unrealistic. Stick to it too closely, and the reader has little reason to, well, read. But where Lee really succeeds is bringing out the nuance to what Christ was teaching. Specifically, she dwells on how the crowds would receive His ministry.
In short, this is a fantastic, stupendous book. Sure, there are some points that I'd quibble over. For example, I personally believe that Judas betrayed Jesus to "back Him into a corner" and force Him to act as the Messiah, a plan that backfired on him horribly. But those are minor, microscopic flaws in an otherwise outstanding piece of Biblical fiction.