Brave, passionate and fearless are three words that I would choose to describe both the author Tosca Lee and her new novel Iscariot, A Novel of Judas. I think it takes a true master and someone who is willing to take a major risk to write a novel like this. And take risks she did. But I think unequivocally the risk paid off as Iscariot is an amazing literary work that takes us on Judas’ journey with Jesus in a way that was so heartfelt and yes, heartbreaking, I mean, how can it not be? Personally I think it’s very tough to take a story where everyone knows the ending and the ending is not a good one, but still make it a compelling read. Tosca Lee does this so well and I really appreciated the journey and feel that everyone who reads this book will look at Judas a little differently.
Judas is portrayed as someone who was always searching- searching for a true messiah. And with much heartache and tragedy to show for this search, his story unravels in an intricately done way. He loses vastly important people to him, and his grief and guilt play a major role in shaping him as a man. His search for a messiah and search for love draw him to this person of Jesus. Along with Tosca’s portrayal of Judas, I loved how she wrote Jesus as well. His amazing love for his disciples and the people around him showed through beautifully, as well as the absolute desperation for why he came to us. I think the thing I most loved about this portrayal of Judas though, is the fact that he loved Jesus, but still even with that love there was his constant battle between what he grew up knowing as the law versus what he saw before him in the person of Jesus.
Another aspect of this novel that I found utterly compelling was Judas’ “fall”- so different from how I have ever pictured it, I think that most of us have just left Judas as a 2 dimensional character- “he’s the bad guy who betrayed Jesus”, but Tosca brings him alive and we can see him and understand him and empathize with him and yes, even see ourselves in him. He like so many of us was a man deceived and with that deception came ultimate destruction.
Finally, I would like to urge you to read the author’s note at the end of the book- it is fascinating to read Tosca’s journey as she wrote this book. I loved the questions that she wrestled with to bring this character of Judas to life; especially with regards to grace- are there no limits? Truly this last bit of the book puts a period at the end of the story, which is why I mention it- I always feel that if we get a further look into the heart of the author with regards to their work that it broadens our understanding. In the usual Tosca Lee style she brings beautiful prose to this book as well as an intense realness to the situations. I found it to be masterful, compelling storytelling and a story that I will remember for a long time.
I was given a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.