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Book Review by Jeff

by Web Guy on 01/14/18

Liars' Gospel by Naomi Alderman

The Liars' Gospel is the story of a Jewish man, Yehoshuah, who wandered Roman-occupied Judea giving sermons and healing the sick. In this fictional novel based on the story of Jesus and the Jewish people, a year after his death, four people tell their stories.  Storytelling is the lying art; a tale can’t be separated from its teller’s motives. This premise underlies Alderman’s daring new novel, which—rather than repeating the laudatory accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—follows four individuals who interacted with Jesus (here called Yehoshuah) just before the Crucifixion. 

His mother, Miryam, mourns him and his abandonment of his birth family; his friend Iehuda can’t accept his charismatic friend’s intolerance for dissent and growing sense of entitlement and feels obligated to betray him. For Caiaphas, the High Priest of Jerusalem’s Temple, subduing one rabble-rousing preacher is of lesser importance than appeasing Pontius Pilate and questioning his wife’s fidelity, while a powerful rebel named Bar-Avo (Barabbas) incites violence against his people’s oppressors. 

Alderman presents an unabashedly Jewish perspective, and she re-creates first-century Judea, a land subjugated by tyrannical Rome, in intense, brutal detail. Religion and politics deeply intertwine in this profound work, which expresses blunt truths about leadership while exploring the healthy nature of debate about one’s faith and the origin of religion. 

This was a time of political power-play and brutal tyranny. Men and women took to the streets to protest. Dictators put them down with iron force. In the midst of it all, one inconsequential preacher died. Viscerally powerful in its depictions of the time of the Roman Empire - massacres and riots, animal sacrifice and human betrayal - The Liars' Gospel makes the oldest story understandable to modern readers. 

Jeffrey Weinstein
(805) 798-0010

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