LAMB: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
Moore weaves humor, poignancy and humanity together in a delightful commentary on religion and the ‘missing years’ of Jesus Christ.
Joshua of Nazareth is an unusual child living in ancient Judea during the time of Roman rule. He is well liked in his village despite the occasional accidental miracle. His best friend is Biff, is an irreverent troublemaker with a distinct lack of respect for authority and a face full of pimples. They both fall in love with Mary Magdalene, a bright girl who charms them despite wetting herself at their first meeting.
After a childhood that is far from normal, Joshua starts to attract attention from local villagers, rebel forces and Roman officials. Suddenly, his powers are flaring out of control. Dead bodies are coming back to life, the village bread magically bears his face, and wild snakes follow in his footsteps. Lost and seeking guidance, he is visited by a divine messenger. It turns out that God’s pizza-worshiping guardian angel Raziel had lost track of time and forgotten to instruct him on his holy mission.
The forgetful Angel gives him a cryptic message: he must journey to learn his destiny. The result is a search for the 3 Magis that takes them across the Middle East, China and India. Along the way, Joshua decides to learn about sin vicariously through Biff, who is more than happy to sample different vices. An unforgettable encounter with a Yeti while inventing the discipline of Judo, taming pirates after being cursed with the evil eye, and hunting a deadly demon all test Joshua’s resolve. Biff, grumbling and starting fights, stubbornly stays by his side in the face of untold dangers.
With the help of mysterious courtesans, sorcerers, monks, gurus, hermits and questionable merchants, Joshua and Biff discover humanity at its best and worst. On their return home after more than 15 years, they link up with Mary Magdalene, Joshua’s moderately insane cousin John the Baptist, and draw closer to the fateful conclusion. Ultimately, Joshua faces his toughest challenge yet: how to sacrifice himself for a greater cause.
Moore is unafraid to comment on many religions, but the biggest surprise is how he manages to make Joshua both divine and utterly, heartbreakingly human.
Book Review by Nicole Edry