The Gospel According to Yeshua’s Cat
By C. L. Francisco
IR Verdict: As a thoughtful, loving and gentle portrayal of the life of Jesus, though, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO YESHUA’S CAT succeeds. Open-minded readers of all faith perspectives may agree with some of it, disbelieve other parts entirely, and find some debatable, which may in fact be an ideal balance for a theological work.
A little cat, attacked in the wilderness by wild dogs who almost kill her, is rescued by Yeshua ben Yosef, a young man seeking answers from God about the work he feels he is called to do. He heals the cat, and names her Mari, while she in turn names him Ben Adamah, son of Earth. He also gives her the gift of human intelligence – always, of course, maintaining a feline perspective – and communication. The two form a deep and close friendship, with Mari keeping him company through his ministry, and receiving some teaching of her own. She even befriends Mary of Magdala, and shares her grief at the crucifixion and her joy at the resurrection.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO YESHUA’S CAT is a charming look at the story of Jesus from an entirely different perspective. Francisco does a reasonable job of taking on a cat’s personality, and giving her a properly feline view of the world. Yeshua’s biography and teachings manage to walk the rather delicate boundary between more traditional and more modern perspectives – this is not a book either for fundamentalists or for radical revolutionaries. For example, Mary of Magdala is not shown here in her traditional role as a reformed prostitute, but neither is she Yeshua’s wife or the mother of his child. She is simply his disciple and his cherished friend, valued for her mind rather than either her reformed sexuality or her fruitful womb. The author’s view of Yeshua and his teaching, whether or not the reader agrees, is at least supported by rational philosophical and theological argument, and founded in love.
At times the author does either, through rewriting certain incidents or by telling them offstage, soften and diminish the force of some of Yeshua’s more interesting and controversial actions. For example, Yeshua finds the woman condemned for adultery after her stoning, not before, thus taking away his confrontation with her accusers. Nor is Mari, or the reader, present at the scourging of the Temple moneychangers or the crucifixion itself.
As a thoughtful, loving and gentle portrayal of the life of Jesus, though, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO YESHUA’S CAT succeeds. Open-minded readers of all faith perspectives may agree with some of it, disbelieve other parts entirely, and find some debatable, which may in fact be an ideal balance for a theological work.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader
Review: The Gospel According to Yeshua’s Cat by C.L. Francisco
The Gospel According to Yeshua’s Cat is a Christian fiction story by world religion expert C.L. Francisco.
Mari, a little black cat, travels with Yeshua, tucked inside his robe as he fulfills his destiny as the son of God. Through the eyes of a cat, details of his life and times are elegantly described to the reader for an especially spiritual Mashup Fiction experience.
There is a comparison to the bestselling book, The Fire Gospel by Michel Faber, in which an Aramaic translator finds a lost scroll that turns out to be a controversial testament to Jesus’ life. In that book, the hero ends up attacked for providing evidence that Jesus lived as a normal man.
Here, we have a far more charming prospect: a cat’s testament, translated by a fictional curator for the enjoyment of others, and in this story, Jesus/Yeshua is calming, somewhat magical and exceptionally earthy and kind. He meets her as she recovers from kitten-birth,
“Yes, your fur is thick and fine, and your eyes are the clear green of a mountain spring,” he agreed. “Your sleek coat teases me with hints of a leopard’s spots, swimming like fish beneath the surface of a wave. You are dark and comely! I think, if you agree, I will call you Mari in human speech, like the ancient walled city named for the sea—lady of beauty and wrath, mother of life. In your short life you have already been all those things.”
The cat lady in me especially enjoyed all the cat activities and descriptions, as the little black queen named Mari travels deserts and towns alongside her master.
However, this book is definitely written for readers who have a deep understanding of the symbolism of the Christian religion and is quite dense and confusing if like me you are not familiar with any of the stories in the New Testament. It would have been nice to have something at the beginning of the book with some references to help someone not immersed in Biblical mythology to enjoy the book straight off without worrying about the names and places, and back stories mentioned, as there are several assumptions by the author that readers know already.
The book is also written in a Biblical kind of prose to add a local color and an authenticity to match the historical period. However, sometimes this is slightly grating and leads to slow reading, as it becomes necessary to go back over passages to fully understand them. I’d like to think this is intentional, to give the appearance of a Biblical scroll – in which case it is effective; admittedly the prose does get easier to read once the style becomes familiar, and the story picks up to cover the life of Jesus as he heads for Galilee.
However, it’s a nice idea that Jesus may have had a cat, and that the cat could speak to him, and for that reason alone this book has a charm that most religious fiction doesn’t pull off, and manages to leave the preaching to one side in favor of lulling the reader into the good deeds and wisdom of Yeshua (Jesus) and those around him, through a cat’s eyes.
Francisco’s research into the day-to-day detail of what it was to be alive in such an ancient culture is intricate and visually stimulating.
Overall this book is an original idea that works well in its genre and will appeal to Bible readers and cat lovers alike – especially given its cute cover. I recommend if any of these subjects appeal, you take a look at her very interesting website for more information on her fascinating research.