Age Review - The Gospel According to the Long-Lost Sister

The writers who come to mind are David Maine and Frederick Buechner as well as the New Zealander, C.K. Stead, whose find book My name was Judas moves in territory close to that of Leslie Cannold. This kind of creativity is precisely what sacred texts invite…

The Book of Rchael is an energetic and passionate revision of the story of Jesus, here known as Joshua, and more particularly of one of Jesus’s sisters. Rachael is a strong and feisty character; in this version she is one of seven siblings…From the outset it is clear that Rachael isn’t going to take a back seat….

It is as a healer that Rachael meets Simeon of Iscariot and, through him, his son Judah, usually known as Jusas with whom she falls head over heels in love. The contrast between Judah, a hot-head and man of action and Joshua, Rachael’s famous brother, a teacher and wisdom figure, is at the core of the novel. It mirrors the contrast between Bindy and Rachael; the tension between wisdom and aggression is great material and Cannold explores it with a kind of sure vision.

Joshua’s decision to side with the poor, especially with marginalised women leads to his undoing. He is not so much betrayed by Judah as misunderstood by a friend who wants to protect him and thereby causes his death, leaving Rachael separated from both her brother and husband. The scene of the death of Joshua, as with so much in this book, is beautifully crafted.

Publication history

Extract from Review by Michael McGirr of The Book of Rachael  Life&Style, The Age