This humorous take on the life of Jesus, subtitled “The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal”, is certainly stepping out from my usual reading fare, but I was in the mood for an audio on the lighter side and this one was getting a lot of buzz, so I decided to see what the fuss was all about.
As a reviewer, one of the things that I try to do is write with my audience in mind, and knowing that many of my readers are Christians, I am going to target this review towards those readers in particular, given the nature of this particular book, but the book actually might appeal more to other readers, so the rest of you might not want to tune out.
Based upon the author’s premise that Jesus spent those lost years of his young adulthood, about which we know nothing, seeking out the three wise men who visited him at his birth, believing that they are meant to teach him how to be the messiah, Lamb takes the reader on a journey through the East as we follow Jesus, known as Joshua, and Biff, as they study with each of the wise men in turn, learning the teachings of Confucius and Buddha, and yoga in India. Author Christopher Moore toes an odd line with this book. He takes a subject which clearly appeals to a Christian audience, but then throws in a narrator, Biff, who sees it as his job to experience all of the seedier side of life on behalf of his best friend, the Messiah of the world, who clearly must be above such things.
For the most part, Jesus Christ is treated with respect and I was not offended as a Christian, but I would be the first to recognize that there might certainly be people of faith who would find this book offensive. More than religious reasons, I think that the element that would bother people the most would be the strong language; there is a large segment of the Christian audience who can appreciate the humor of this book, slightly irreverent though it might be, and, I was disappointed that the author chose to use this type of language in a book with this subject matter because I felt that it was incongruent and narrowed his audience. There is also a lot of sexual innuendo in the book. While the sex is not graphic, it is a recurrent theme, and frankly, at times got a little bit overdone, to the point that around disk eight (of twelve) I considered quitting listening. I persevered for two reasons-first, I rarely give up on a book, and second, I was very curious to see how the end of Christ’s life was handled in this strangest of books.
Surprisingly, the mission of the Messiah and his crucifixion were handled in a very sensitive fashion, and there were many touching moments in the final three disks. There was far less humor, and the author really toned down the less savory elements in the final chapters of the book, which was as it should be. I was actually glad that I hung in there to listen to the end of the book, but it was not enough to bring up my rating from three to four stars, as the things that I mentioned above simply weighed the middle of the book down too much for my liking.
In the odd way of these things, this audio is likely to be a contender for my number one spot of the year. It is absolutely five star. While I did not always enjoy the story (mostly because it was outside my comfort zone), there was nothing about the audio that I could fault; characters had distinct voices and personalities, timing made the humor shine through (this audio is just plain laugh-out-loud funny in many, many places, and I loved it), and gravity entered the tale when it was supposed to. If this is a book which appeals to you, I highly recommend the audio-it is outstanding.