Anne Rice's just-published Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana is #2 on Barnes and Noble's best-seller list. Rice has been up there before, due to the success of Interview with the Vampire and other bestsellers of a decidedly non-Christian cast. Two decades ago, if anyone might have imagined that she'd now be writing novels about Jesus, the betting line would have been that she'd make Satan the hero. In 1998, though, Rice "began to be more and more concerned with my relationship with God." She began attending church. She began reading theologians, including those who thought that "Christianity was, at heart, a kind of fraud." She "expected to discover that their arguments would be frighteningly strong." She came out concluding that the skeptics were perpetrators and victims of poor scholarship and reasoning.
How did that spiritual and theological change affect her writing? For a time she thought she'd never write about vampires again; now she says she may come back to vampire Lestat one final novel, but it will be from a different direction. Her main work, though, lies in writing about Jesus, whom she calls "the ultimate supernatural hero."
She's taken on a hard challenge and made it even greater because she is writing her series about Christ in the first person, a seemingly impossible task: How does a writer enter the mind of God? At least the first book of her new series, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, dealt largely with Jesus's childhood in Egypt, about which almost nothing is known. This second one, though, and especially its second half, covers baptisms, temptations, and miracles described tersely in the gospels.
Some will hate what she does, but I think she largely pulls it off. An early scene of stoning those thought to be gay suffers from political correctness, but her depictions of Satan tempting Jesus and of the wedding at Cana are superb. She understands that the gospels are tight writing so there's room to fill in details, with the test of faithfulness being: Does the author make more vivid the biblical account or substitute for it a nonbiblical fantasy? Overall, Rice aces the test.