Author: Rebecca Kanner
Publisher: Howard Books
ISBN: 978-1-4516-9525-0

I wanted to comfort her, but there was nothing left to say. I had chosen my master over them already. Whatever his fate, whatever he was – madman or Messiah – I would live or die with him,” Judas ponders about Jesus in Tosca Lee’s story, Iscariot: A Novel of Judas.

At three hundred and fifty-four pages, this paperback targets readers that like Biblical stories about Judas Iscariot’s betrayal, depicted as broad liberal fiction which may concern those who know the Scriptures. With no profanity but scenes of crucifixion, violence, and lewdness, it would not be apropos for immature readers. This reader wishes all pronouns of God were capitalized for reverence. With five pages of review in the beginning, the ending includes interesting author’s notes, acknowledgements, a reading guide with sixteen questions and four book club discussions, a conversation with the writer, and further thoughts on the topic, along with a preview of a new book.

Starting with an epilogue, this tome is written in first person by a broken, tormented man who, as a child, witnesses Jews being massacred, sees his father crucified on a cross, watches his mother sell her body, and views Romans taking over Jerusalem. At thirty-eight years old, married, and expecting his first child, he hears about an ordinary-looking Nazarene who many claim to be the coming Messiah.

Devoted to his Jewish upbringings, the guilt-ridden man who feels insignificant and unworthy is baptized by John the Baptist. Debating within his soul, he reports to the Sons of the Teacher, a subversive group of Pharisees looking for their king, while he becomes captivated by Jesus’s teachings and miracles.

Weaving conversations of Jesus with His disciples, the story blends fiction with Biblical situations as the sick are healed, the lame walk, and the gospel is given. As the main character, Judas protects his Master from harmful situations, keeping Him safe while the Sons question His beliefs and motives.

As Iscariot believes he saves his Master by purposely setting up His arrest to protect Him, he thinks he is not a betrayer, but a faithful follower who has been well-played by the Sons. With no reference to the verse in the Bible where Satan entered Iscariot, the author’s detailed notes at the end of the book offers her explanation.

While the story is told fictionally, Lee does a good job relating that we are like Judas in that we are unworthy, sinful, and depraved yet God has profound love for us. However, it seems her vision of this historical traitor dying of a broken heart does not focus enough on the seriousness of eternal damnation.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for furnishing this complimentary book in exchange for a review based on the reader’s honest opinion.

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