This book was recommended to me as a good read by someone who doesn’t attend church so I was especially curious about it.
Basically it is an historical novel, and a novel with a capital ‘N’. It is clear that Rice has done much research into the history and culture of the time, but while the background is based on fact the story is pure fiction.
The main subject, as the title suggests, is Jesus as a young boy journeying back from Egypt to Nazareth, and his discoveries about who he really is and what impact his birth had on the community he was born into. Written in the first person it gives us one persons thoughts into how Jesus might have felt and reacted as he discovered who he really was and what that meant to the people around him even before his public ministry began. However it is speculation, and for this reader at least, it didn’t portray a picture of Jesus familiar to me, apart maybe from the way he would search out quite places to think and ponder, to pray and question God. That being said it did make me wonder anew about when Jesus became aware of who he was, and if Joseph or Mary ever sat down and told him the story of his birth and the events that surrounded it?
The strengthen of the book lies in Rice’s research, those who struggle with history will find this an accessible way to understand what was going on in that part of the world at the time. How the expectations of a Messiah were rife and why they were so different, depending on what you had witnessed and suffered. On the importance of Jewish ritual and festivals and how much they were part of every day life. But, and it is a big but, only if the reader can take the research and separate it from the story which is built around it.
Is it a good read? Yes it is. Would I recommend it? Well yes with that one proviso, remember it is fiction, this is not the facts of Jesus’ childhood, it is a story, told well, but a story never the less.