This book is amazing. What a writer and what a book. It's taken me a while to read it because I can only read a few chapters of it at a time. In most books, that's a bad thing, but not this one. I can only read a bit at a time because this book breaks my heart every time I read it.
Suppose -- just suppose mind you -- that Judas Iscariot wasn't the wolf in sheep's clothing that we always thought he was. Suppose he was someone who loved Jesus as much as any of us or perhaps even more? What if his story didn't end in betrayal and suicide?
And yet it does end that way (no spoiler there, she starts the novel with his death). That's what makes this story so heartbreaking. So how does she make Judas a sympathetic character and yet keep the ending believable? Because Tosca Lee is an amazing storyteller. Ah. Maz. Zing! For this is not only Judas' story, it's a story of Jesus as well.
If you want to explore how much you love Christ, read this book. If you think you bear no resemblance at all to Judas Iscariot, read this book. It will open your eyes and yes, probably break your heart.
Thanks to The DeMoss Group for providing a copy for me to review.
Brave, passionate and fearless are three words that I would choose to describe both the author Tosca Lee and her new novel Iscariot, A Novel of Judas. I think it takes a true master and someone who is willing to take a major risk to write a novel like this. And take risks she did. But I think unequivocally the risk paid off as Iscariot is an amazing literary work that takes us on Judas' journey with Jesus in a way that was so heartfelt and yes, heartbreaking, I mean, how can it not be? Personally I think it's very tough to take a story where everyone knows the ending and the ending is not a good one, but still make it a compelling read. Tosca Lee does this so well and I really appreciated the journey and feel that everyone who reads this book will look at Judas a little differently.
Judas is portrayed as someone who was always searching- searching for a true messiah. And with much heartache and tragedy to show for this search, his story unravels in an intricately done way. He loses vastly important people to him, and his grief and guilt play a major role in shaping him as a man. His search for a messiah and search for love draw him to this person of Jesus. Along with Tosca's portrayal of Judas, I loved how she wrote Jesus as well. His amazing love for his disciples and the people around him showed through beautifully, as well as the absolute desperation for why he came to us. I think the thing I most loved about this portrayal of Judas though, is the fact that he loved Jesus, but still even with that love there was his constant battle between what he grew up knowing as the law versus what he saw before him in the person of Jesus.
Another aspect of this novel that I found utterly compelling was Judas' "fall"- so different from how I have ever pictured it, I think that most of us have just left Judas as a 2 dimensional character- "he's the bad guy who betrayed Jesus", but Tosca brings him alive and we can see him and understand him and empathize with him and yes, even see ourselves in him. He like so many of us was a man deceived and with that deception came ultimate destruction.
Finally, I would like to urge you to read the author's note at the end of the book- it is fascinating to read Tosca's journey as she wrote this book. I loved the questions that she wrestled with to bring this character of Judas to life; especially with regards to grace- are there no limits? Truly this last bit of the book puts a period at the end of the story, which is why I mention it- I always feel that if we get a further look into the heart of the author with regards to their work that it broadens our understanding. In the usual Tosca Lee style she brings beautiful prose to this book as well as an intense realness to the situations. I found it to be masterful, compelling storytelling and a story that I will remember for a long time.
I was given a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
I love it when great writers take the time to completely research a project if they are going to write a historical fiction novel. It's even better for me as a reader when I can get my hands on a greatly researched and well-thought out biblical historical fiction. When they can take me by the hand and transport me back into history and allow me to walk side by side with a character, it truly helps me understand them better and what may have motivated them to make the decisions they did. Such is the case in the latest novel from Tosca Lee in Iscariot: A Novel of Judas. She provides an in depth look at what the life of Judas Iscariot may have been like and attempts to fill in the missing holes to help us understand why someone who was invited into the sacred circle of being one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, could easily sell him out to the men who wanted to kill him.
It provided me with a different view point. First of all by tackling the difficult process of establishing the time period where Judas would have grown up in. What was really happening in the world? Why was there such a great fear from the Roman's from the Jews? What was life really like living back in Israel so long ago and what might have life been like looking at these circumstances through the lives of one of the most notorious biblical men in history? I have to say, I completely applaud Tosca Lee. Too often it's hard to label people just based on one side of the facts. We obviously know more happened that just what the writers of the gospels have to say, and I think she filled in the holes masterfully.
I never realized just how difficult it was growing up for Judas. How difficult it was to deal with all the backlash from the Romans towards the Jewish people. If just a handful of people voiced their concerns against the Romans and caused conflict, they were dealt with harshly, either imprisoned or crucified. Sometimes even entire cities were may to pay for the consequences caused by a group of men who didn't agree with the way Herod was handling things such as taxes or even property disbursements. How hard it would have been to be such faithful followers of the old Jewish laws and in studying the Torah, believing that the Lord would return bring about justice to those that oppressed the Jewish people. This is why so many didn't believe Jesus was the promised Messiah. They wanted someone to punish the Romans and reward the Jewish people, but Jesus was the complete opposite. He dealt with things justly with love, grace and peace, but was not the promised Messiah the Jewish people believed would come to right all the wrongs in their minds.
This is a novel that I believe every single Christian should read. Not to glorify what Judas Iscariot did but to understand why he may have did it. It was such an exceptional read, I had to go and purchase a copy of Tosca Lee's other biblical novels, Havah: The Story of Eve and Demon: A Memoir, a story about the fall of Lucifer. Tosca Lee's exceptional ability to find the truth and fill in the holes without much to go on, allows us to see things differently while still holding on to the Biblical truth. I easily give this one a perfect 5 out of 5 stars. I received Iscariot: A Novel of Judas by Tosca Lee compliments of Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Publishers for my honest review. Trust me, you'll want to pick this one up, to see if there really was a motivation for Judas making the decision he made and wondering if we, in fact, would have followed in his footsteps as well.
I approached this book not knowing what to expect, thinking to myself "Is it actually possible to be entertained by a story from the Bible that I've heard over and over?" The answer is a resounding yes!
Iscariot is one of those novels that satisfies on every level, offering the pleasure of a beautifully told story, combined with an entertaining plot and a character that is sure to shatter every preconceived notion you have ever had about Judas Iscariot. Tosca Lee writes with exquisite prose, with colorful, vivid descriptions that transport the reader deep into the heart of the story. I found myself living and breathing alongside Judas, soon experiencing a surprising heart of empathy as I met the Judas that Tosca Lee has constructed. But let me be clear that you aren't going to read anything here that shouts, "That's not what the Bible says!" Yes, this is fiction, and so the author did take some poetic license to flesh out who Judas may have been. But nothing she wrote rings false. Instead, with her usual careful research, Tosca Lee has unpacked the character of Judas and offered us what might have been, a truly plausible take on a person I've read about in the Bible over and over, but never considered as deeply as I have while reading this book. I found myself holding my breath as I raced through the pages, wishing for a different ending despite knowing how things must end. And yet the author did an amazing job at creating a conclusion that still surprised me, and one that left me deep in thought as I closed these pages. My faith has been stirred, and I know yours will be too as you read through this story.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and award it a full 5 out of 5 stars.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, for the purposes of this unbiased review.
When I read the gospels, I fail to think that each of the characters Jesus interacted with had a story. Each disciple had a family. Each needy person came to him with a history.
And what about Judas? Tosca says she ran from writing his story for a year before she casually mentioned the possibility of it to others. She hoped they would talk her out of it. They didn't. A year later the idea was rooted in her heart.
She spent three years on the quest to write the story of Judas, based on the belief that we all err in ways that make sense to us. (329) That included a research trip to Israel and consulting hundreds of books, articles, lectures, etc. The result is fascinating.
Tosca helps us see the reality of the Jews living under Roman rule. The death of Judas' wife at the hands of lustful Roman soldiers. We are with him when he sees the destruction of Sepphoris and then his own father, crucified along with hundreds of others. We feel the intensity of the rebels trying to cast off Roman rule. We feel, along with Judas, the excitement when Jesus comes on the scene, claiming to bring the kingdom of God. Discouraged by a prior false messiah, Judas thinks, "But in that moment I felt I had found a thing, a person, worth the resurrection of my every hope." (111)
Tosca brings alive the stories we read in the gospels, exploring the horror of the disciples when Jesus confronted the Pharisees, their indignation when Jesus tells a man his sins are forgiven, and their puzzlement when they ask about the kingdom and Jesus says, "It is here! Now!" (159).
Yet Judas loved Jesus. He felt completely known by him. "But when I looked at him, I saw a great tenderness in his eyes as though everything within me were already laid bare." (130)
We feel the frustration of the disciples when Jesus does not move fast enough to establish the kingdom. After John's death, Judas' attitude toward Jesus was, "He was the Messiah. And if not him, then no one. So now we must move, and quickly." (197)
I know, there is always a danger when one novelizes parts of the Gospels. I tremble at the thought of putting words in Jesus' mouth and have been very critical of attempts to do so by others. I am very impressed, however, with this novel. Tosca has remained true to the spirit of the gospel account, I think. Granted, it is fiction, but I really got a sense of the Roman occupation and the groan for national freedom. I felt the frustration of Judas as he was caught in the web of his national patriotism and commitment to Jesus.
Well done. I highly recommend this novel.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.