by Evan Drake Howard
Guideposts, 16 East 34th Street, New York, New York 10016, hard cover, 444 pages, 9-780824-947941, $24.99.
Author Evan Drake Howard treads familiar territory with a new twist. Concerning the relationship between Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene, Judas Iscariot and the thief on the cross who was forgiven by Jesus, we encounter a plot that goes from Biblical times to present day. Jesus wrote a letter to Mary to explain what a relationship between a man and a woman should be and the letter disappeared long ago.
The story begins in present day time when a hidden ancient scroll is found by Karim, a Palestinian, who finds his thinking changed when he gets the scroll translated. In present times, Karim not only has to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but with falling in love with an Israeli girl whose brother is a police officer. Not only that, but an overly-ambitious archeologist wants the scroll for himself. There is plenty of action both in present-day and in Biblical times.
In the time of Jesus, Mary Magdalene is helped by Jesus and fancies herself in love with him, however, Judas Iscariot wants Mary and this sets up a triangle in which one person is whole and the others flawed. Yet another triangle happens with Judith, a woman in love with two men, Gabriel and Dismas, who are brothers. One good and one a zealot anxious to overthrow the Romans. Women, here, could both read and write. The six people's lives become intertwined and names such as Nicodemas and Pilate come through the pages. The scroll? It passes from hand to hand.
It is a balancing act to go back and forth in time, have stories that weave together, characters that are well known and those that are not. The center is the scroll and its meaning then and now. About 1/3 of the book is set in present-day while 2/3 is back in Jesus time. In the present day time frame, the setting is believable, but in the Biblical time frame, you may wonder a bit. There is much explaining of what Jesus preaches and this can be repetitious. The best parts of the book are the characterizations such as Judas Iscariot, Gabriel, Judith or Karim of present-day. They are descriptive and bring the reader in so you feel you are part of this unusual story.
Reviewed by Marie Asner 2010