Five words from the blurb: Messiah, New York, healing, enraged, controversial
James Frey is clearly courting controversy with this book. The title and Bible-like lay-out of the text will cause offense to some people before they’ve read a single word. Frey ensures that this outrage is continued by filling the first chapter with an unusually high density swear words – the concentration of which isn’t repeated anywhere else in the book.
I had no plans to read this book, but a copy popped through my letter box from the publishers and once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. The basic premise is that the Messiah is alive and living in New York. I found the concept interesting as anyone in our society who claims that they can perform miracles or speak to God is generally not taken very seriously.
Each chapter is written from the perspective of a person who comes into contact with Ben Zion (the supposed son of God). Initially the narrators know little about the man, but as the book progresses we hear from those who are closer to him and so more information is revealed.
I loved the first half of this book – it was fast paced and entertaining. In many ways it reminded me of a Dan Brown book, but with better structure and less historical research.
The text was initially a lot less controversial than I had expected from the cover. Whenever a potentially controversial statement was made it was balanced by another character expressing the opposing view, or by one so charming that few could disagree with it:
Unfortunately the book went downhill towards the end. We started to see the ways in which Ben Zion ‘loved’ everyone and I felt that James Frey was just trying to throw as many controversial scenes into the text as possible. It wasn’t necessary for him to sleep with everyone (male and female) and I was inwardly groaning as he made a girl pregnant and then took her for an abortion. It wasn’t necessary and just undermined what could have been a good book.
I also struggled with the writing style in the last 100 pages – it became overly sentimental and more like something written by Mitch Albom than the faster pace of the first section.
I found much of the book entertaining, but ultimately I was disappointed by the way in which controversial scenes were added to the text for no good reason. This book is guaranteed to start a conversation, but unfortunately it isn’t going to be a very intelligent one.