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Synopses & Reviews
Grounded in extensive research, making use of a Rashomon-like narrative strategy, and written with the elegant poetic eye that has earned Nino Ricci an international reputation, Testament is a bold work of historical fiction. It vividly recreates the world of first-century Palestine to explore the very beginnings of the myth surrounding the man we know as Jesus.
Testament approaches Jesus through the refracting prism of four characters. We hear, in turn, from Judas, Mary Magdalen, Jesus' mother, Mary, and Simon, a young Syrian shepherd who is not in the Bible but who may remind readers of Huckleberry Finn. Distinct in concern, event, and style, each deeply human and beautifully rendered, these overlapping narratives together tell the recognizable story of the four gospels. But in Testament there is no recourse to miracle. Rather, Ricci has found plausible, naturalistic explanations for a good many of the Bible's miraculous events. And yet, as readers, we already begin to see how the story of this passionate, charismatic man, subject to different eyes and desires and to countless retellings, will be transformed into myth — indeed, is already being transformed.
Ricci is not the first novelist to approach this central figure of Western civilization, but here he accomplishes something of an entirely different order: a portrait that is historically grounded, philosophically rich, emotionally moving, and speaks eloquently to the place and power of stories in our lives.
"Nino Ricci's Testament deserves a wide audience and should ignite vigorous debate....The four narrators Ricci creates are exceptionally well drawn and brilliantly infused with the details of their time, but the figure they revolve around remains something of a black hole, observable mostly by his influence on them. When we do glimpse Jesus, he's a provocative, captious man, confusing to his devoted followers. Ricci's fascinating vision presents a challenge to those comfortable with a quaint Christ. But on the other hand, little about Jesus' words or actions as portrayed here seems sufficiently unique or powerful to have sparked the spiritual revolution that began 2,000 years ago." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)
"Gently stripping the life of Jesus bare of its mythical trappings, Ricci (The Book of Saints, etc.) presents a lyrical, searching version of the biblical tale, grounding his work in the historical realities of the time and telling Jesus' story from four different perspectives....a valuable entry in the annals of fiction inspired by the Gospels, from Renan's Life of Jesus to Jim Crace's Quarantine." Publishers Weekly
"Ricci's interpretation will spark controversy among readers with a background in religion; those who simply enjoy well-grounded historical novels as well as a lovely prose style will appreciate it for its fictional merits alone. Expect demand based not only on publicity but also word of mouth." Brad Hooper, Booklist
"Remarkable — immensely savvy about the nature of human longing, compassionate about human failure, and illuminating." Barry Lopez
Grounded in extensive research, and written with the elegant poetic eye that has earned Ricci an international reputation, Testament is a bold work of historical fiction. It vividly recreates the world of 1st century Palestine to explore the very beginnings of the myth surrounding the man known as Jesus.
A stunning fictional biography, Testament presents the earthly life of Jesus from the perspectives of four fascinating figures. In powerful accounts colored by their own beliefs and desires, the following men and women tell the captivating story:
Yihuda of Qiryat (Judas Iscariot), a freedom fighter working for Romes overthrow who is drawn to the charismatic teacher; Miryam of Migdal (Mary Magdalene), a disciple who finds in Jesus' presence the intellectual stimulation that society has denied her; Miryam (Mary), the mother of Jesus, who has a complex relationship with her precocious son; Simon of Gergesa, a plainspoken shepherd who travels to Jerusalem and witnesses the last days of the Jewish preacher.
With exquisite detail, Nino Ricci offers a vivid and provocative portrait of the historical Jesus, an ordinary man living in a time of political turmoil and spiritual uncertainty.
Set in a remote corner of the Roman Empire during a period of political unrest and spiritual uncertainty, Testament is a timeless story of how the holy man we know as Jesus alters forever the course of human history.
We come to know Jesus through the eyes of four dissimilar people. First is Judas, a committed political fighter who is invigorated by his discussions with Jesus about a sovereign nation for the Jews — a place Jesus imagines as a philosophical rather than a physical kingdom. Second is Miryam of Migdal, through whom we learn of Jesus's controversial teachings as the two travel through Galilee and Jesus encourages the masses to question the teachings of the powerful few. Through Jesus' mother, Miryam, we learn of his all-too-human vulnerability, the rigor of his conviction, and his unfailing compassion. Finally, it is through Simon of Gergesa, a Syrian shepherd, that we witness the last days of the Jewish preacher as he journeys to Jerusalem. Though Simon is uncertain about how to assess Jesus' legacy, he now sees beauty where before there was none.
Covering overlapping portions of Jesus' life, Testament tells the recognizable story of the four Gospels but without recourse to miracle. The naturalism of the novel is based on extensive research and is utterly convincing, and yet there is indisputably something profound and even holy about the man and his teachings. As the novel progresses we begin to see how his story, filtered by different eyes and desires and subject to countless retellings, will be transformed into myth.
Ricci is not the first novelist to approach this central figure of western civilization, but here he accomplishes something of an entirely new order: a portrait that is historically grounded, philosophically rich, and emotionally moving and that speaks eloquently to the place and power of stories in our lives.
About the Author
NINO RICCI's best-selling Lives of the Saints (published in the United States as The Book of Saints) won the Governor General's Award for fiction, the SmithBooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the F. G. Bressani Prize. The New York Times Book Review hailed it as "an extraordinary story — brooding and ironic, suffused with yearning, tender and lucid and gritty . . . [The author has] perfect pitch and brilliant descriptive powers." This was the first book in a trilogy and was followed by In a Glass House — "beautifuly written and tireless in its pursuit of emotional truth" (Times Literary Supplement) — and Where She Has Gone, which was a finalist for the Giller Prize.
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