Matt’s Weekly Reads, March 25, 2023


The Gospel according to Lazarus (released in 2023 as The Lost Gospel of Lazarus), Richard Zimler (2019)

In this stunning contemporary Jewish retelling, the New Testament figure Lazarus writes a long letter to his grandson telling the story of the last days of his dear childhood friend Yeshua, better known as Jesus.

I really can’t express how much I loved this book. Richard Zimler is a well-known and multi-award-winning author of fiction about Jewish faith and experience. Most of these are historical fiction, though his most recent release, The Incandescent Threads, which was one of my top reads of 2022, is more contemporary. So, I was intrigued to say the least when I found out he had written a book about Jesus. And am I ever glad I picked it up. To put it crassly, this is a glorious piece of Jewish Jesus fan-fiction, which puts Jesus — better than any other book I’ve read, fiction or non — into a realistic first-century context. This is a world filled with superstition, magic, and mysticism as much as it is with conspiracy, politics, and violence. As much as I love this book, I know it won’t be for everyone, and in fact I fear it has struggled (and will struggle in its brand new release in paperback this week under its new title) to find an audience accordingly. It’s not a Christian telling of the story of Jesus, so it may very well scandalize many Christian readers in places; yet it is very much the story of Jesus, which may put off many non-Christian readers. But I do encourage anyone who thinks they may at all be interested, to pick this up. It’s gorgeous. And what better time to pick it up than now, since we’re just a week away from Holy Week!

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • First-century Judaism
  • Roman Empire
  • Jesus
  • Mysticism

My Rating: Premise 10, Atmosphere 10, Main Character(s) 10, Plot 8, Intrigue 10, Relationships 9, Success 10, Writing 10, Enjoyment 10, Lasting Impact 10: TOTAL 97

Weekly Roundup

Tempest-Tost (Salterton Trilogy 1), Robertson Davies (1951), 92: An amateur theatre company in a small Ontario city undertakes a production of The Tempest. Throughout his career, Robertson Davies was known as “Canada’s premier Man of Letters,” and this novel, his first, demonstrates why. Not only is a Shakespearean play the major plot point, but poetical, literary, and philosophical references abound here. Yet it’s far from stuffy; it is in fact, best classified as a farce, and an effective one at that. Highs: Main Characters, Writing; Lows: Relationships (CanLit, Small Towns, the Arts, Theatre, Shakespeare)

Cinnamon and Gunpowder, Eli Brown (2013), 92: In 1817, the personal chef of a wealthy British magnate is kidnapped by pirates after they kill his boss. He’s given one job: to cook one excellent meal a week for the captain; if the meal doesn’t delight, he’ll be killed. This was a surprisingly wonderful book; it’s a great romp of a pirate adventure but also tells hard and important truths about the history of global trade. Highs: Premise, Success; Lows: Main Character, Lasting Impact (19th C History, Imperialism, Foreign Trade, Pirates, Adventure)

One’s Company, Ashley Hutson (2022), 87: In the aftermath of a series of traumas, a young woman takes refuge in the 1970s television show Three’s Company. When she wins the lottery, opportunity turns her fandom into obsession, and she goes to extreme lengths to retreat into the world of the show. As you might guess from this synopsis, this is a very strange book. But, it’s completely different from anything I’ve read before, and it’s very well-done. Highs: Premise, Setting; Lows: Relationships (Trauma, Coping, Television, Nostalgia, Obsession).

Tin Man, Sarah Winman (2017), 88: A story about an unconventional love triangle among the English working class towards the end of the last century — a story about love, what is lost and what can be kept. This is a bit of an oddly structured book, and I have to admit I got lost a couple of times in the time jumps, but over all I found it very effective. Highs: Premise, Relationships; Lows: Fulfillment of the Premise, Plot (Twentieth Century History, UK Culture, Working Class, Complicated Families, Friendship, LGBTQ2S+, HIV/AIDS)

Do I Know You?, Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (2023), 83: Eliza and Graham have been married for five years and are still very much in love and committed to being together. But, the daily grind has left them feeling disconnected and without a clue how to get back what they’ve lost. When a stranger at a hotel bar mistakes them for strangers and introduces them, they decide to play along and see where it goes. I really loved the premise of this book; I really wish there were more romances about married couples figuring out how to make things work. Unfortunately, for me at least, it didn’t quite live up to the promise of the premise and I left feeling a bit disappointed. Highs: Premise, Main Characters; Lows: Plot, Fulfillment of the Premise (Romance, Marriage, Second Chances)

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, CA. Fletcher (2019), 76: In a post-apocalyptic future where only a few thousand humans remain, a teenager named Griz is thrust into adventure when a stranger steals a beloved family dog. There was a lot to like here; the particular way in which Griz engages with the remains of our world was really well-done and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, the story really didn’t work for me. Griz’s motivations weren’t well-justified, and the plot relied on Griz making a big assumption that turned out to be right. I was left feeling pretty unmoved. Highs: Setting; Lows: Plot, Relationships (YA, Dystopian Literature, Dogs)

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick (2007), 87: In 1931, an orphan lives inside a Paris train station with his uncle, whose job it is to set the station’s clocks. When his guardian disappears, young Hugo takes the job upon himself and uncovers the mysteries of a mechanical wonder and its connection to the earliest days of the film industry. If this synopsis sounds familiar, it’s because this illustrated book for older children was the source material for the Oscar-nominated film Hugo (2011). It’s as magical in print as it is on film, and it was a lovely surprise for me. Highs: Setting, Main Character; Lows: Writing, Meaning (1930s, Paris, Film, Clockwork)



3 responses to “Matt’s Weekly Reads, March 25, 2023”

  1. […] recently I had Eli Brown’s Cinnamon & Gunpowder recommended to me as a fun pirate adventure. I was surprised to discover that the opium trade […]


  2. […] Zimler’s stunning and profound novelization of the aftermath of Lazarus’ raising, The Lost Gospel of Lazarus, and it does a great job of showing just how mind-breaking such an experience would be.) And, as […]


  3. […] I have mixed feelings about this one. I don’t mind an unorthodox portrayal of Jesus, but unlike more successful novelizations of his life, there just didn’t seem to be much to fill in the holes created by taking the story out of the […]


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