|James Frey’s Final Testament|
Ben is a lonely alcoholic living in a small apartment in the Bronx. Even though his overly religious family and religious advisers had him pegged for greatness given the circumstances of his birth, Ben rejected it and remained confused the majority of his life. However, after a workplace accident nearly kills him, Ben comes out a changed man. He begins to suffer from extensive seizures in which he believes he communicates with God. As the novel progresses, Ben becomes more and more influential in the lives of those he enters; almost establishing a cult of sorts. Told through the people he encounters, The Final Testament of the Holy Bible asks the question: “How would Christ be received if he graced us with His presence 2011 years later?” Evidently, fairly well.
I’m not a religious man by any means.
Growing up, my parents never involved me with any part of their religion. I was the kind of kid that had to attend church on Christmas and possibly Easter. Actually, organized religion sort of frightens me and I’m not really quite sure why. I think it has something to do with the religious fanatics that populate our world. Perhaps it’s the fact that some wars are started or heavily involved due to religious beliefs; that or it’s used as a motivational factor. I’ve often felt that the world would be a better place if we could all just do away with it altogether. I’m not saying that people who have religious beliefs are idiots – I just haven’t really been exposed to the good side of it. So, you can appreciate why I was a little weary when I heard that this was to be the subject of Frey’s next project. However, I remained hopeful.
When I read Frey’s first foray into straight up fiction with 2008’s Bright Shiny Morning, I was less than impressed with the results. I don’t know what exactly rubbed me the wrong way – maybe my expectations were impossibly high after how much I loved his two-part autobiography (or fictional biography); or maybe it just wasn’t that great. Either way, even though I was anticipating his 4th release, I was approaching it with some sense of doubt.
I loved this book more than anything I’ve read this year so far. It firmly established my faith with Frey – that, if anything, Bright Shiny Morning was just a one-off, mediocre offering. His prose, while similar in all of his 4 releases (short sentences, no quotation marks, heavy on emotion), is one of my favorites to read. No one that I’ve read (at least not as of yet) can convey emotion so well when needed. Whether its through acts of love or hate, he makes me feel something for each character – each and every time.
As far as the religious material goes, I never feel like Frey had to club me over the head with it. He’s said in interviews that he doesn’t really know what his stance is on the whole idea of organized religion but you have to think he’s writing this material from a familiar place; it feels far too passionate not to be.