I admit to reading this with more than a bit of trepidation. I loved A Million Little Pieces, even after it was shown to be largely fiction. After the two “memoirs,” I wasn’t impressed with Frey’s “first” novel. Add this to the fact The Final Testament of the Holy Bible is about the Messiah returning to modern New York City and you can see why I, like many others, was leery. Not only did I like it, it may well end up on my best of the year list.
When we meet Frey’s central character, his name is Ben Jones, a 30-year-old drifter who lands a job working security for a construction company. Each chapter unveils more of Ben’s story from the perspective of a different narrator (although we hear from some more than once). They include Ben’s mother, sister, priests, rabbis, teen-aged prostitutes, drug addicts and homeless men. Frey gives each a unique voice that fits and captures the character. Ben narrates no part of his story but, like some Bibles, when a narrator relates his actual words, they appear in red (at least in the e-book I read).
No doubt the book isn’t for everyone. Some may think Frey aims to shock for the sake of shock, others may simply dislike or condemn the Ben character, his actions or even the “theology” he espouses. But although not entirely original in concept, The Final Testament raises fundamental questions about religion, how it affects our lives and how religious doctrines are interpreted. Moreover, while some of Ben’s experiences undoubtedly suggest otherworldliness, Frey provides a potentially rational explanation for his seemingly growing omniscience.
Not only is it interesting and thought-provoking, the way Frey tells the story does much to make this a book worth reading.
…sometimes all any of us needs in life is for someone to hold our hand and walk next to us.
James Frey, The Final Testament of the Holy Bible