Harper Perennial, 2003
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill
Levi (known as Biff to all and sundry, because his
mother smacked him across the head nearly every day of his life) is an
ordinary kid growing up in 1st century Nazareth. The only thing different
about Biff is his best friend, Joshua (aka Jesus Christ).
2000 years after his death, Biff is brought back to life by the Angel
Raziel for the purpose of writing another Gospel for the Bible: The Book
of Biff. It seems the powers have decided there needs to be another book
to fill in the gaps about Christ's childhood, so Biff is holed up in The
Regency Hyatt in St Louis attempting to write. Raziel won't let him out of
the room until he has committed something to paper and Biff is unsure what
a gospel should be like. Raziel has become addicted to daytime soaps, chat
shows and wrestling on TV,so Biff sneaks the Gideon Bible into the
bathroom in an attempt to sneak a peek to see how such things are written.
What he sees doesn't impress him. These guys didn't know Josh!
The book LAMB moves between Biff in the hotel room and the events in the
Gospel he is writing. Biff recollects first meeting Joshua, a six year old
sitting in the dust with a lizard in his mouth, then passing it to his
younger brother who bashes it with a rock and hands it back to him to put
in his mouth again, to bring it back to life. Even at this tender age,
Biff realises there's something very different about Josh. We follow the
boys as they grow up. Their first day as apprentice stonemasons at the age
of ten and the incident with the circumcision of a graven image. Their
friendship with Maggie (Mary Magdalene). Teenage Josh wrestling with the
meaning of the Angel's pronouncement "thou shalt not know a woman". Does
this mean what he fears it means?
Josh decides that to fulfill his destiny he has to first figure out what
that destiny is. So he and Biff set out to find the Magi who were there at
his birth in the hope they will be able to help. Their travels take them
to Afghanistan, China and India where they both study Buddhism,
Confucianism and Hinduism, before returning to the Holy Land and Joshua's
As the book nears the end of Joshua's life, Biff and Maggie's grief and
desperation to save him from his fate create a great deal of tension. Even
though the reader knows the end, you can't help but hope that they find a
way out for Josh.
The book is written from the perspective of one who knows Joshua is The
Messiah but who sees him first and foremost as his best friend. Biff is a
likeable character. He is cheeky, irreverent and his smart mouth is always
getting him into trouble. He is the perfect foil for the serious Joshua
who is aware he is destined for greatness but isn't sure how to go about
LAMB is probably not a book for everyone. Many who take religion very
seriously may not appreciate the humour. It reminds me a little of Monty
Python in that it doesn't so much make fun of religion, but sees the funny
side. And as the boys grow up the book becomes bawdier in places.
In his note at the back of the book, Christopher Moore says he did a great
deal of research to try and fit the story he's written as seamlessly as
possible with events written in the Gospels. He freely admits he has taken
a few historical liberties in order to create a good, entertaining yarn.
And that is exactly what he's succeeded in writing.
Jan 2006 Review
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