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Review: Iscariot by Tosca Lee

Iscariot by Tosca Lee Iscariot by Tosca Lee
Reviewed by: Lori Twichell
Genre: Historical, religious
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication Date: February 5, 2013

Judas Iscariot. It’s a name irrevocably intertwined with the death of the most famous man in history, Jesus Christ. Anyone who has studied the scriptures knows that Judas betrayed the Messiah with a kiss of friendship. But if the sum total of your knowledge of Judas comes from those few verses, then you don’t know his whole story.

Iscariot by Tosca Lee opens with the final moments of Judas Iscariot. We follow his pondering and memories as he explains what led him to this climactic ending. It’s the part of his tale that we all know. We just don’t know much of what happened between Jesus and Judas prior to the infamous betrayal. Lee presents (with amazing clarity) a possibility of what things might have looked like up to that point.

Overflowing raw emotion wrapped in stunning description doesn’t just pull you into the story; it grabs you by the heart and squeezes until well after you’re done. Long after you’ve put the book down the memories of the journey will hover around you, pressing and teasing at your subconscious with more questions and ideas. This book will remind you that Judas isn’t just a name. He was a person. He was a living, breathing human being who played a key role in changing the course of history. He was also a member of the inner circle. One of the people who saw Jesus daily, Judas experienced the Messiah’s greatest triumphs and tragedies on a personal level. In vivid detail, Tosca Lee ushers us through the passages of history and helps us experience it for ourselves. As I was reading, I could hear Jerusalem and taste Capernaum. I felt the road dust grinding into my toes and the cool freshness of the mikveh cleansing my spirit.

You might think that reading this book would be something like witnessing a slow motion train wreck. We all know how it ends and honestly, it’s not pretty. However, this isn’t a story of betrayal. It’s the story of a little boy growing up under horrifying oppression. A young man struggling with his mother’s choices and the consequences that follow. A husband who isn’t sure where to turn when tragedy strikes. And a student who loves his teacher like a brother and isn’t sure what the right choices are, let alone how to make them.

Tosca Lee provides a lens through which the reader can see the story of Jesus Christ and his disciples in a way that will shift his or her perspective. The end of Judas’ story, at least for me, had poisoned the rest of his life. He was always the bad guy in the tale, so wherever his name was mentioned in the Bible, my mind supplied the evil villain. Twirling moustaches, evil laughs…it’s easy to picture Judas this way. He is, after all, Judas. His name IS the stereotype. It is a testament to Lee’s storytelling that by the time you get to the end of this book you’re left reeling, wondering, questioning and more than that, thirsty to know more.

Few writers are able to fully engage the imagination on such a visceral level. Fewer still can take a character laden with preconceived notions and completely change the reader’s outlook. Tosca Lee stands head and shoulders above the crowds of writers out there. With a deft hand and a passionate spirit, she grants us a beautiful glimpse into history. Beyond that, she peels back the layers of all we’ve ever known and shows us a new way to view God’s grace, mercy and abundant love.

Rated PG-13: There’s some tough subject matter here and some thing that require a little more maturity to understand. Tosca does a great job at making history real and in some places, it’s very real. Not recommended for younger readers. Younger teens might also want to read with parental guidance.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Thank you!