Set in a remote corner of the Roman Empire during a period of political unrest and spiritual uncertainty, Testament is a timeless story of how the holy man we know as Jesus alters forever the course of human history.
We come to know Jesus through the eyes of four dissimilar people. First is Judas, a committed political fighter who is invigorated by his discussions with Jesus about a sovereign nation for the Jews -- a place Jesus imagines as a philosophical rather than a physical kingdom. Second is Miryam of Migdal, through whom we learn of Jesus's controversial teachings as the two travel through Galilee and Jesus encourages the masses to question the teachings of the powerful few. Through Jesus' mother, Miryam, we learn of his all-too-human vulnerability, the rigor of his conviction, and his unfailing compassion. Finally, it is through Simon of Gergesa, a Syrian shepherd, that we witness the last days of the Jewish preacher as he journeys to Jerusalem. Though Simon is uncertain about how to assess Jesus' legacy, he now sees beauty where before there was none.
Covering overlapping portions of Jesus' life, Testament tells the recognizable story of the four Gospels but without recourse to miracle. The naturalism of the novel is based on extensive research and is utterly convincing, and yet there is indisputably something profound and even holy about the man and his teachings. As the novel progresses we begin to see how his story, filtered by different eyes and desires and subject to countless retellings, will be transformed into myth.
Ricci is not the first novelist to approach this central figure of western civilization, but here he accomplishes something of an entirely new order: a portrait that is historically grounded, philosophically rich, and emotionally moving and that speaks eloquently to the place and power of stories in our lives.