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Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession by Anne Rice

11 Jan

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In 2005, I witnessed one of the greatest changes in literary history.

Anne Rice, the woman known for writing about vampires, witches, mummies and spirits announced she was going to write books about the life of Jesus Christ.

I remember thinking that this was someone’s really great idea of a joke. But the joke was on me. The first book, Christ the Lord – Out of Egypt, was released shortly after the incredible announcement.

At the time, I worked in a bookstore. I had seen the book on the shelf and ignored it, largely because I thought it wouldn’t be any good. How could a woman who wrote such incredible books about legendary figures switch to writing about Christianity?

In the end, out of sheer curiosity, I bought the book. After the first page, I was held spellbound. Indeed, Anne Rice was writing about the most incredible legendary figure of our time: Jesus Christ.

I devoured the next book about Jesus Christ: Christ the Lord – The Road to Cana. I felt that Out of Egypt and The Road to Cana were Rice’s best work. The reserved, elegant prose read like liquid poetry and the passion and spark that had been lacking in some of her later books had returned in full force.

But I was still left wondering: why? Anne Rice did made a living out writing about characters that go about trying to prove God doesn’t exist. Her books had been incredibly angry towards God and Christianity in particular.

Now here she was writing about the life of Jesus Christ. There is a lengthy authors note in the back of Christ the Lord – Out of Egypt, but I was still left with questions. Though Out of Egypt and The Road to Cana were her best books in years, possibly the best books of her entire career, why did she make such a drastic change?

We finally have an answer.

That answer arrives in Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession. It is Rice’s first memoir and first work of non-fiction. It also seeks to explain her spiritual transformation that resulted in an incredible change in her literary career.

 Rice begins the memoir by telling us of her strict Catholic upbringing. How she was surrounded by God and the Church and Catholicism. How she was required to go to church every day and be thankful for God, though he was cruel and vengeful.

What is most interesting, however, is when Rice begins to talk of her years at college and how her strict Catholic upbringing does not fit into her new life away from home. The struggle that Rice goes through to hold on to her relationship with God while being confronted with the normalcy of life outside the Catholic church is truly harrowing.

You feel for her as she struggles internally with what she feels inside and what she sees and experiences all around her. I actually found myself moved emotionally when Rice decides there is no God, that there is no Christ, and becomes an atheist.

And yet, though she claimed not to believe in God, each of Rice’s novels prior to her new relationship with God as a Catholic, has to do with God and those who seek him. Each of her novels featured those who are constantly searching for a bliss they do not feel in their souls.

Through out all those years, she was really a closet Christian, a woman obsessed with God but unwilling to admit it to herself. It takes something miraculous to bring her back to the Catholic Church.

And back to God.

Now, I am not a Christian. I don’t normally read what I would call Christian books. They don’t appeal to me, they don’t interest me and I normally pass them by in the bookstore. In fact, they usually make me slightly uncomfortable.

There are a few reasons for this. Like Rice, I grew up in an incredibly religious home. I was subjected to rules and regulations that were all dictated by the Church. God seemed to be filled with more hate than love, more vengeance then forgiveness. My church at the time and my family were not able to show me a God capable of love.

I moved away from the Catholic Church as soon as I could.

After much searching, found a spirituality that suited me, that sated the need for spirituality I had. But I still get a sour taste in my mouth when I think of Christianity. Regretfully, it is my families’ skewed version of Christianity that always comes to the light first. 

All that to say: I don’t normally read what I would call Christian books. However, Called out of Darkness is beyond wonderful. The same beautiful writing that shines on the pages of Christ the Lord – Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord – The Road to Cana graces the pages of Called Out of Darkness in abundance.

But the most beautiful thing about Called Out of Darkness is that Rice makes the distinction between God and the Church. One of the most beautiful parts of Called Out of Darkness is when Rice laments her lost relationship with God and realizes that it has nothing to do with the Church. It all has to do with God and with God’s love.

Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession is an intimate account of Anne Rice’s journey back to Christianity, back to Catholicism. Back to God. It is a story of one woman’s search to find herself in a world that is often confusing.

Called Out of Darkness is an incredible, moving story of one woman’s search for who she is and what she believes. It is the story of one woman who searched for, and found, her spirit.

More than that, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Journey is a beautiful, haunting book. Regardless of whether or not you are a Christian, or have even read any of Anne Rice’s books about Jesus Christ, read this book.

Your spirit will thank you for it.

Christ The Lord by Anne Rice

28 Feb

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Everyone knows of The Greatest Story Ever Told. How Jesus was tempted by the devil and was betrayed by Judas for three pieces of silver; how he was crucified on a cross and rose from the dead three days later. It’s quite a story. It has all the elements of a good potboiler: heroes, villains, damsels in distress, betrayal, miracles, true love. Almost sounds like “The Princess Bride” doesn’t it? But has anyone ever asked themselves what happened before The Greatest Story Ever Told?

Apparently, Anne Rice has. The result is the breathtaking “Christ the Lord Out of Egypt.” I can hear you going: What? Anne Rice? The Vampire Lady? It’s true. After the death of her husband, Anne Rice stated that her focus of writing would change drastically. There were to be no more vampires, no more Lestat. They were to be gone from us forever.

Many speculated what focus or direction Anne Rice’s writing would take now that she was not going to write about vampires, mummies or witches. Having grown up in a strict Catholic childhood, Rice had left the church, only to return to its walls years later. Before the death of her husband, Rice had gone back to the Catholic Church and had wanted to write the story of Jesus Christ. For wasn’t Christ the most supernatural of creatures ever made?

Meticulously researched, it tells the story of a young, seven year old Jesus who realizes that he is not like other boys. Able to give life to clay birds, bring death and life to someone else in a heartbeat, Jesus is feared by many. After causing a boy to die and then bringing him back to life to ease the grief of his parents, Jesus and his family leave Alexandria and return to Jerusalem.

Jesus is aware that they are leaving because of him. Wherever they go, there is whispered conversation about what happened in Bethlehem seven years ago. Jesus learns that Joseph is not his father; this is something he has always known, though he is not sure how he knew. Though he questions Joseph about his birth, he is told not to ask questions, told not to question that which he can’t understand at such a young age.

Finally, one night, Jesus is forced to ask his mother about his birth. He tells her he needs to know about the mystery surrounding him. She tells him that he is not the child of an angel, that he is the child of the Lord, the child of God.

That an angel came to her and told her that she had been chosen the most blessed of women, that she would bear a child for the Lord. She worries that Jesus doesn’t understand the enormity of what she is telling him.

But Jesus does understand. For he is wise beyond his years. As well, when they return to Jerusalem, it is to a grueling sight: Instead of the Passover ceremony they were expecting, they walk into the temple into a slaughter. Herod’s men are killing the Jew’s left and right. Jesus knows that people are dying around him but he understands that he must see this; that he is meant to see this. He begins to get a measure of human suffering.

Jesus will have to learn a lot more before “Christ the Lord Out of Egypt” is over. And I, for one, hung on to the book with white knuckles as I read on to find out what would happen to him. The book starts with a bang and just gets better. “Christ the Lord” is really a historical novel of the finest weaving. Rice’s research is evident and the story of Jesus is brought to such life that you feel you are there, living, with him.

There are lessons in this book too: On human suffering, on love, on parenthood, on life and death. Jesus knows he must look at everything with a different eye than most. And he is very philosophical for a seven year old. But you feel for Jesus, for his family; for the trials they must go through.

Normally, this is not the kind of book that would interest me at all. I normally stay far away from anything that has to do with the Catholic Church. But the fact that Anne Rice had written it (and that is had gotten several glowing reviews) made me wonder. I knew it would be (hopefully) well written and I knew it would be well researched. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was enchanted.

I honestly think this is her best book since her earlier work on the Vampire Chronicles. The sensuality of her writing is still there, still crisp. And the love of her subject matter shines through at one hundred watts. Put simply, this book glows.

I can only hope that Rice will continue with the life of Jesus so that I can find out what happens to him next. Even if you’re not a Christian, you will love this book. Pick it up and be enchanted.