By Anne Rice
Reviewed by Donna Jefferson
Yes, it is the same Anne Rice who is so prolific at writing about vampires who has written about the earliest years of Jesus. I have always wanted to read this book and when a $1 copy (sorry Ms. Rice) came available at the library I grabbed it thinking that this might be a long read.
Actually, Out of Egypt did not take long to read. It flowed well beginning just as Joseph bar Jacob and his entire family, including six-year-old Jesus began their terrifying journey out of Egypt and back to Nazareth. Author, Rice writes as the voice of the child Jesus and what she thought he experienced as a young boy. Evil King Herod had died making it safe for the house of Jacob to return to their homelands. Unfortunately no one is in power. Armies of different factions are killing and burning the country as different would-be rulers try to gain control.
The family endures many horrors but finally arrives in their homeland, much of it destroyed by the armies. Jesus is beginning to realize he has special abilities and that he is different than the other kids. During the long voyage from Egypt he heard stories about his mother being visited by an angel. Joseph confirms the stories about the angel but will not elaborate.
Over the next year their local village and nearby town was rebuilt with Joseph in big demand as a skilled craftsman. Mornings were spent by Jesus and his brother James being tutored by local rabbis. Afternoons were for helping his father with the carpentry business. But always nagging in the back of Jesus’s mind were the questions and bits of stories he kept hearing about his birth. He repeatedly asked his brother and uncle for more details and was always told that he needed to be a child first and grow up more.
Eventually Mary tells Jesus the story of his birth, what King Herod did afterwards and their exodus to Egypt. Jesus saw much death and darkness but as a child once he learns the truth and understands his part in it, fear finally leaves him. He says, “It seemed the whole world was holding me. Why had I ever thought I was alone? I was in the embrace of the earth, of those who loved me no matter what they thought or understood.”
This certainly wasn’t a fast read but instead very thought provoking. I knew the answers to the questions Jesus was asking his parents and I felt as frustrated as he did. I’m sure that is exactly the feeling the author was trying to provoke. I could have used a family tree. There are multiple Marys, Davids, and Johns and it was hard to keep track of which one was which.
Adults and teens interested in ancient history and willing to accept the premise that Rice is speaking as she imagined Jesus would, will enjoy the book. There are some very vivid and violent images but nothing that we haven’t learned from bible stories, although using today’s English rather than King James’ English made the text much more gruesome to me.