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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
The title of Roberta-Leigh Boud’s novel, Jesus the Time Traveller, must, of course, be taken tongue in cheek. We must gear ourselves for something iconoclastic, even comic. What I didn’t expect was something nearing an epic poem. The prose is almost poetry—exquisite writing, hard-hitting imagery, relentlessly peeling back anything false. We start with a man, Josh, wanting to excel, volunteering for the perilous task of climbing into an ingeniously fabricated spacesuit and traveling back (or possibly ahead?) in time, not into outer space, but right here on planet Earth. And, for some reason, to the very moment of Christ’s forty days and nights in the wilderness. During the trip Josh’s suit malfunctions, leaving the traveler stranded in that same mythical desert landscape. Facing death, Josh reviews his life—his childhood, his wife and son, and his profession. And all the standard philosophical quandaries arise. What is the meaning of life, and what happens when we die?
I was carried along by the sheer beauty of the writing. I kept expecting Josh to run into Jesus, as the title predicts, and as he eventually does. It was a mystery unfolding. What is this fabulously written story about? I kept asking as I turned the pages. I thought maybe Josh was sent back to ask the Son of God some advice about the current situation on Earth. I was curious about what Jesus would have to say on that subject. But I was wrong, surprised, and intrigued about what Roberta-Leigh Boud was sweeping me into. Besides the power and the beauty of the language, this epic prose-poem questions not so much the literal truth of the scriptural story but the necessity of scripture at all. And it’s a fair question, is it not? What would life be without the comfort of Christian myth, even despite its historical misuse? This brilliant novel lays the question bare.