James Frey‘s new book: The Final Testament of the Holy Bible, is a controversial story of the second coming of the Messiah in modern day New York City. Frey writes from the perspectives of the individual people who have been touched by the alleged Messiah, Ben Zion.

The first person narratives throughout show Frey’s ability to write in the minds of a diverse range of characters: from a black Dominican girl from the Bronx, to a “fat white cashier from the middle of nowhere”. These acute portrayals in themselves shed a great amount of light on the varied ethnic and religious backgrounds of the residents of New York. Combined with this is the characters’ struggle to come to terms with the Messiah’s dismissal of organised religion and religious doctrines instilled in them.

…it focuses on a religion of love, not hatred, sexual healing and enjoying one’s life…

Perhaps Frey uses The Final Testament to put forward his own beliefs, calling for the reader to wake up and stand against corrupt governments and religions. It is for the most part convincing. It is interesting also to see how a modern day equivalent of Jesus Christ is portrayed with his own Mary Magdalen living in an ultimately disillusioned society.

In this increasingly atheist world, where religion is often criticised, the claim that The Final Testament is revolutionary and controversial could be contested. However, it is worth a read simply for the alleged Messiah’s ideas on a modern religion: it focuses on the idea of a religion of love, not hatred, sexual healing and enjoying one’s life in the moment. Frey puts forward a challenge to the reader to reassess preconceived notions, leaving us with the persuasive thought that “life, not death, is the great mystery we must confront.”

The Final Testament of the Holy Bible is published by John Murray Publishers and is available for £16.99 (HB).

4 Stars 

Image courtesy of James Frey


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