The Nativity Story Angela Hunt, developed from the screenplay by Mike Rich. Tyndale, $13.99 paper (250p) ISBN 1-4143-1462-0
It’s a difficult task to retell the biblical nativity story in a fresh way–after all, it has been novelized, brought to stage and screen, and is the stuff of endless children’s Christmas pageants. Yet this companion novel to the New Line Cinema feature film (which will hit theaters December 1) should find a place on the bookshelf as a fresh and viable retelling. Hunt, the author of more than 70 books and working from Mike Rich’s screenplay, refrains from oversanitizing the story, although Mary and Joseph are fairly one-dimensional (there aren’t a lot of character flaws here). She depicts their gritty, hardscrabble existence as balanced by the love of family.
As a thoughtful reader would expect, the census trip to Bethlehem is no picnic, but some readers may be surprised that the shepherds and wise men show up at the stable together, unlike in the gospel account. The good-natured joshing among the three wise men provides a lighter note to the chapters where Herod’s cruelty is well portrayed. Hunt balances the necessary violence with a sensitivity that will expand her readership. Her rich prose and cultural details utilize the five senses to recreate the familiar story, which spans many points of view and includes a fine subplot about Elizabeth, Zechariah and John. (Nov.)