38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
"A village view of God that was not scholarly.",
This review is from: Quarantine (Paperback)
From its dramatic opening in which a trader lies dying in a tent while his caravan continues on to Jericho without him, to the confusing days following the death of Jesus, Crace's novel of forty days' "quarantine" in the wilderness startles, fascinates, and ultimately haunts. Readers who embrace a literal interpretation of the Bible may be offended by the premise and plot of this novel, in which Jesus and four other pilgrims seek spiritual enlightenment in separate caves in the bleak wilderness. Each, including Jesus, faces personal demons as s/he wrestles with solitude, starvation, and thirst. For those who regard events in the New Testament as symbolic, rather than literal, the novel offers a surprising new way of experiencing and interpreting the trials in the wilderness, the death and burial of Jesus, and ultimately the influence of Jesus on succeeding generations.
Crace's descriptions of the natural world are breathtaking. Using vivid verbs, musical cadences, unique metaphors, and acutely perceived observations about man, nature, and the spirit, he brings the wilderness into sharp focus, often personifying nature and its creatures without a trace of romanticism. "The clouds came down to sniff the hills, to scratch their bellies on the thorns," "Clouds and lightning moved away, banging on their shields," and sounds of wind that "could be mistaken for the vast percussion of the storm-pressed, canvas billows of a ship" are among the hundreds of vibrant and unique images which bring nature to life and illustrate man's closeness to it. With a similar focus on men as humans within nature and the wilderness, he attempts to recreate the quarantine experience and man's desire to connect with a higher power. Jesus, like the other pilgrims, is human here, a man rooted in the real world of his day and subject to the same urges as other men. He is different from them, however, in his determination not to yield to privation as he seeks union with God through his visions and hallucinations.
This is not a book that will appeal to everyone. Though Crace's purpose is not to debunk, he does challenge our understanding of what happened between the forty days in the wilderness and the resurrection and its significance. The language is stunning, the characters are fascinating, the imagery is unique, and the power of nature is overwhelming--but one's enjoyment of the book ultimately depends on one's willingness to consider alternative interpretations of some of the basic tenets of Christianity. Mary Whipple