Book Review: Lamb

 

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

Christopher Moore
Paperback, 464 pages
HarperCollins Publishers
February 01, 2003

I’ve been meaning to read Christopher Moore for a while now and after finishing Lamb I’m just sorry I didn’t start sooner.  I shudder to think of all those wasted hours spent watching mindless reality shows, paying bills, going to work..when I could have been in tears laughing at the deliciously witty and beautifully sarcastic prose of Mr. Moore. 

Fan-tast-ic.

Lamb tells the story of the Messiah through the words of his best friend Levi who is called Biff, and it essentially fills in the gaps between Christ’s (Joshua here) famous birth and his crucifixion and resurrection just over thirty years later.  Just to be clear, this book isn’t meant to be read as historical fiction (although Moore did his homework researching the period) or to challenge beliefs, it’s purely a what-if tale that’s meant to entertain.*  It will make you grin, gasp, and definitely laugh out loud.  Frequently.  I mean, the extended title alone is enough to set the comedic tone of the novel: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

The book begins when the angel Raziel receives an assignment to go to Earth (“dirt-side”) and resurrect Biff and give him the task of writing a new Gospel, in honor of the two-millennia anniversary of Christ’s birth.  We’re introduced to Biff (whose nick-name is supposedly derived from the Hebrew slang for “smack upside the head”) and I quickly latched onto his wit, nonchalance, and sarcasm, which he invented.  He begins his tale when he first met Joshua at age six, where the Messiah was engaged in the fascinating activity of mashing lizards to death and then resurrecting them, and precedes to inform us of their childhood in Galilee, where Josh learned he was the son of God, and moves on to their epic journey when they set out in order for Josh to learn more about his nature and what it will take to bring the Kingdom to his people. 

The journey takes them far and wide, through vastly different cultures and religions.  They study everything from Buddhism and Kung Fu to the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads (Biff even learns quite a bit from the Kama Sutra) before finally returning home to spread the word that the Messiah has come.  Through all their adventures we learn the origins of many of his teachings, which were quite controversial and radical at the time. 

As someone who grew up without religion I’m always surprised at how fascinated I am by theology and the history of religion.  I guess it’s the anthropologist in me.  It was fascinating to read about the various philosophies and religious beliefs that influenced Josh during his quest and proved to shape the core values of his budding ministry. 

The story was more than funny (and it was funny) though.  It was clever, intriguing, thought-provoking, and moving.  Biff’s fierce loyalty and the love he feels for his friend came across on every page, despite the constant wise-cracking and sarcastic remarks.  The same can be said for Maggie (Mary Magdalene), who was a wonderful character.  It was easy to see why both Biff and Josh fell in love with her from day one (a chaste love in Josh’s case, of course). 

There were so many quotes that I wanted to include here but in the end I just couldn’t bring myself to choose.  There were just too many gems.  But I will include what Biff refers to as “the gist of almost every sermon I ever heard Joshua give”:

You should be nice to people, even creeps.

And if you:

a) believed that Joshua was the Son of God (and)

b) he had come to save you from sin (and)

c) acknowledged the Holy Spirit within you (became as a little child, he would say) (and)

d) didn’t blaspheme the Holy Ghost (see c),

then you would:

e) live forever

f) someplace nice

g) probably heaven.

However, if you:

h) sinned (and/or)

i) were a hypocrite (and/or)

j) valued things over people (and)

k) didn’t do a, b, c, and d,

then you were:

l) f*cked

I’m tempted to include the rough draft of the Sermon on the Mount but I’ll let you get to that in the context of the story so you can fully appreciate it.

Toward the end of the book I was so engrossed I had to physically stop reading and remind myself to slow down because I was missing all the little details whilst getting caught up in the action.  I loved the ending, although it was a bit abrupt.  I would have happily read through two hundred more pages just to hang out with Biff a while longer.  Maybe there will be (or is there?) a sequel.  Wishful thinking probably.

Well, if you can’t tell yet I was absolutely enchanted by this book and apologies to all the books in my TBR pile who’ve been waiting patiently for their turn, but I just can’t wait to get my hands on another Christopher Moore book.  My only problem is choosing which one to read next.  I’ve heard great things about Fluke so maybe I’ll go with that one.

Have you read this or any other Christopher Moore books?

* Moore includes this statement in his Afterword: “This story is not and never was meant to challenge anyone’s faith; however, if one’s faith can be shaken by stories in a humorous novel, one may have a bit more praying to do.”

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9 Comments »

  1. Yeah, Lamb!!!! “Thanks for sinning for me, Biff.”

    This past weekend, my mom asked in all earnestness why rabbits have come to be associated with Easter. And I told her it was because Jesus got drunk at a wedding, saw a rabbit, was awed by its cuteness, and declared that he wanted those around anytime anything bad happened to him.

    She didn’t find that as funny as I do.

    • Jamye Said:

      “Waste of a perfectly good harlot if you ask me.” Hahaha!

      To be honest I didn’t even pick up on the Easter Bunny thing until afterward because I was so engrossed in the story at that point and freaking out that Josh was going to be arrested at any moment. Plus I was distracted by the hilarity of him telling Biff to feel how soft the bunny was. LOL! Priceless.

      What other Moore books would you recommend?

  2. Dionne Said:

    Yay, I’m so glad you liked it!! I can’t wait to see what you think about other Christopher Moore books and find out what recommendations you have! 🙂

  3. Nymeth Said:

    I’ve been meaning to read Moore for ages too – clearly I ought to hurry up and do it!

  4. OK – I’ve got to get my hands on this one! Great review – can’t wait to read the book!

  5. WonderBunny Said:

    I know I’m the odd one out on this, but this is my least favorite Moore book (and I think I’ve read them all). Lamb I think is one of his books where you either love it, or you don’t. Glad to see a new Moore reader though. He books are hilarious.

    I do think A Dirty Job is his best book though. If you have that one, I’d recommend that next.

    • Jamye Said:

      Really?? I’m actually excited you think that because if it only gets better than Lamb then I’m in for some awesome books! I haven’t decided which one to try next so I’ll keep A Dirty Job in mind.

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. Linda Said:

    I really like Moore. I liked You Suck and A Dirty Job. Moore makes me laugh which is always good.


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