The Way: A Novel

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Crown/Archetype, Jul 12, 2011 - Fiction - 368 pages
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Anna is a fiery tomboy living in ancient Palestine whose androgynous appearance provokes ridicule from the people around her and doubt within her own heart. When tragedy strikes her family, and Anna's father—disguising her as a boy—sells her to a band of shepherds, she is captured by a mystical and secret society of women hiding in the desert. At first Anna is tempted to escape, but she soon finds that the sisterhood's teachings and healing abilities, wrapped in an ancient philosophy they call "The Way," have unleashed an unexpected power within her.

When danger befalls the caves in which the sisters have made their home, Anna embarks on a hazardous mission to preserve the wisdom of her mentors by proclaiming it among ordinary people. Her daring quest and newfound destiny reveal, at last, the full truth of her identity—a shocking revelation that will spark as much controversy as it does celebration.

Anna’s story is one of transformation, betrayal, love, loss, deception, and above all, redemption. Readers will cheer for this unforgettable protagonist—and for debut novelist Kristen Wolf, whose beautifully written book both provokes and inspires. A compelling mix of history, myth, and fantasy, The Way is a fascinating exploration of the foundations and possibilities of human spirituality.

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Reviewed by Lee Libro for
THE WAY by Kristen Wolf (July 2011) is a story loosely structured on the life of Jesus Christ…at least at first glance. Extremely well crafted, the
author has written an engrossing story posing the question, what if Christ had been a female?
The main character, Anna, grows up in a desert culture set in the Mideast during the same years as the life of Jesus Christ. This culture values males over females to such a degree that Anna’s father is greatly disappointed by his only child being a daughter. When Anna’s mother dies, her father, distraught over his sonless status, sells her to a group of wandering shepherds, but in order to do so, he must disguise her as a male, for only males are shepherds. Thus begins an era in Anna’s life where she takes on a male persona and adopts the name “Jesus.”
The author draws on parallels between the Jesus we all know and Anna, aka Jesus. For example, when she feeds the hungry shepherds one evening from a single lamb, one of them remarks, “He has fed the masses with a single loaf of bread!” These similarities may perplex any reader ensconced in a very strict Christian view, but for the reader with an open mind, THE WAY tells a story with a message in its own right. Given the era, the social mores surrounding gender roles at the time, and the constructs of a patriarchal religion that both preceded and ensued after the establishment of Christianity as a religion, THE WAY takes a look at the true meaning of Christianity as viewed through matriarchal roots.
“The Way” is an ancient belief system steeped in the reverence for nature and all nurturing, maternal forces. When Anna leaves the shepherds and resumes her female persona while living amongst a secret group of women practicing “The Way,” her innate abilities and connection to spirit and healing begin to blossom. As a follower of “The Way,” will Anna be persecuted just as all others before her had? Her gender switching between Anna and Jesus will play an important role in the unfolding of the story of the crucifixion and fascinate the reader with twists and turns, including one powerfully reminiscent of the love triangle in Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT.
Kristen Wolf’s story responds not to the question, “Who was Jesus?” It prompts one to consider the leader of the Christian movement, not from historical facts, but from an inner perspective, and begs the question, What was Jesus? What does Jesus represent, regardless of sex, personality or the ego that he may, in actuality, have occupied while incarnate on our planet? THE WAY will resonate with those who feel a connection with a different Jesus, apart from his assigned gender, or the world’s transformation of his history into religion.

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About the author (2011)

Kristen Wolf is a mother, writer, and filmmaker living in the Rocky Mountains. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Georgetown University and holds an M.A. in creative writing from Hollins University. This is her first novel.

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