Controversial religious texts are discovered in the Egyptian desert. Unscrupulous men battle to control them, while others ponder their meaning and impact on the Christian faith. No, it's not a sequel to The Da Vinci Code, it's Resurrection, an absorbing novel from Tin House editor Tucker Malarkey.
Gemma Bastian is a nurse who has survived the trauma of the London Blitz, most tragically her mother's death in a bombing raid. As the novel begins, she learns of the sudden death of her father, Charles, a former seminarian turned archaeologist whose final letter from Egypt tells her he's "rediscovered a God that even you will believe in." Gemma travels to Egypt to meet her father's friend David Lazar and his sons, Michael, a wounded fighter pilot, and Anthony, another archaeologist. Gemma haunts the libraries, museums and back streets of Cairo, painstakingly seeking the significance of her father's involvement with the Gnostic Gospels, as shadowy figures work to thwart her quest.
Alongside this religious detective story, Malarkey weaves the tale of Gemma and Michael, two people damaged in different ways by war and seeking to recover their previous lives. These multidimensional characters help to elevate the novel above the level of a conventional thriller.
Loosely based on the actual circumstances surrounding the discovery of the Gnostic Gospels at Nag Hammadi in 1945, Resurrection mingles its fictional characters with some of the real figures involved. The book features excerpts from the lost gospels, enabling curious readers to appreciate their beauty and reflect on their religious significance, especially the role of women in the early Church. Yet Resurrection is hardly a dry religious text. In captivating prose, Malarkey evokes the dusty streets and brilliant sunsets of post-World War II Cairo, introducing readers to an exotic and mysterious world.
This thoughtful novel can be enjoyed on multiple levels—as a mystery, a love story or, perhaps most compellingly, as a tale of the search for religious faith. However it's read, Resurrection offers an assortment of pleasures.
Harvey Freedenberg writes from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Copyright 2006 BookPage Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2006 June #1
Investigating her father's mysterious death in post-WW2 Cairo, a young woman finds herself on the trail of the Lost (Gnostic) Gospels; there is also a flickering love interest in this second novel from Malarkey (An Obvious Enchantment, 2000). Gemma Bastian is a nurse in London. She lost her mother in the Blitz; then her father, an archaeologist, left for Egypt. Now it's 1947, and Gemma is off to Cairo herself; her father has died of a heart attack, and she will stay with his friends. David Lazar is an Englishman; his second wife is Egyptian; his children are half-brothers. There's Michael (a morphine addict, drowning in self-pity because of his injuries as a fighter pilot) and Anthony (another archaeologist, calm, aloof); Gemma will spar and flirt with the still-sexy Michael while she pushes Anthony for information on her father's research. He had achieved a breakthrough and was expecting money before being found dead in his office after his client, a British Museum official, was killed by a rock slide. It smells bad. Who is the ginger-haired guy she surprises in her father's office? Why is he following her? And why is Anthony stonewalling? Gemma is her father's daughter, a smart, fearless loner, and realizes her father had unearthed one of the Lost Gospels (as a young man, he had left the seminary after a similar discovery). Sinister machinations by the Catholic church; the elevation of Mary Magdalene--yes, there are some similarities to The Da Vinci Code here. But Malarkey assures us that her many gospel quotations are authentic (and credits The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels). Her mix of shattering scriptural revelations and skullduggery should be combustible, but the fire never catches. The murders (four, at least) generate little excitement (this is Egypt; stuff happens) and the sheer number of different gospels in circulation becomes confusing. All this, and the bombing of Cairo by the Israelis? It's way too much. Passable entertainment; could have been much better. Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2006 April #1
Listen up, Da Vinci Code fans: Tin House founder Malarkey (An Obvious Enchantment) has dreamed up a story featuring Mary Magdalene as the first apostle. At least, that's the idea Gemma Bastian starts chasing after traveling to post-World War II Cairo to follow up on her late archaeologist father's final project: uncovering the Gnostic Gospels. With a national tour. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal Reviews 2006 July #1
In her second novel (after An Obvious Enchantment ), Tin House founding editor Malarkey offers an absorbing fictional account of the discovery, history, and repression of the Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“lost gospelsĂ˘â‚¬Âť found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in the 1940s. Although Malarkey draws heavily on Elaine PagelsĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s respected historical study, The Gnostic Gospels , for subject matter and structure, the fictional world she creates is all her own. When Gemma BastianĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s archaeologist father dies unexpectedly, she leaves World War II torn London for Cairo to see the place he loved and learn more about his work. Charles Bastian knew that additional gospels outside of the four in the Bible existed and thought they should be distributed for public consumption. These gospels, including one by Mary Magdalene, illuminate an alternative picture of the life and teaching of Christ, especially in regards to his relationship with Mary. Sound familiar? Unlike The Da Vinci Code , however, MalarkeyĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s book is more novel than thriller; she focuses in equal parts on the character of Gemma and the finer details of the Gnostic Gospels. Readers who enjoyed Kate MosseĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Labyrinth or Elizabeth KostovaĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s The Historian will find Resurrection a good read. Recommended for most public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/06.]Ă˘â‚¬"Andrea Y. Griffith, Loma Linda Univ. Lib., CA[Page 68]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A temperate entry in the rapidly overheating Da Vinci Code sweepstakes, Malarkey's second novel (following An Obvious Enchantment ) illuminates the spiritual yearnings underlying and bolstering that boffo megaseller's more sensationalistic elements. Set in Egypt just after WWII, the novel fictionalizes the discovery of the Gnostic gospels, early Christian writings whose explosive intimations--that a growing nonauthoritarian sect was suppressed as Christianity was incorporated into the Roman empire--have been expertly explored by the great scholar Elaine Pagels. Malarkey, a founding editor of Tin House , is clearly enamored of these writings, but she makes a hash of the intrigue around their discovery. A faulty sense of period (a character at one point anachronistically calls for "security") and characters and situations straight from romance fiction ("This is the most beautiful part of the horse, and, I think, some women") mix uneasily with fairly sophisticated Bible readings, as young Brit Gemma Bastian follows her archeologist father to Cairo and gets mixed up with the household of his friend David Lazar--and David's sons. Such criticisms would be quibbles if Resurrection possessed the pulpy energy of Da Vinci , but it doesn't. Budding Gnostics and Essenes would be better off going straight to Pagels. (Aug.)[Page 36]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.