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Kemp, "The Wise Man Returns" (reviewed by Beth Roach) Options · View
jeffneedle
Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 4:46:26 AM

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Review
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Title: The Wise Man Returns
Author: Kenny Kemp
Publisher: Sweetwater Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc, Springville, UT
Genre: Magi--Fiction
Copyright: 2011
Binding: Softbound
Pages: 355
ISBN-10: N/A
ISBN-13: 978-1-59955-496-9
Price: $16.99

Reviewed by Beth Roach for the Association for Mormon Letters

"The Wise Man Returns" is a fascinating, thoroughly researched historical fiction novel for anyone who has ever wondered where the wise men came from or what happened when they returned home after witnessing Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. I have often wondered about the story of the magi, looking for clues to fill in the intriguing gaps in the story, such as why were there wise men traveling from the east purposefully seeking the Messiah. I had always thought they had to be believers in order to prompt such an arduous journey; I had never thought mere curiosity would be sufficient motivation for such an undertaking. I also had imagined that they knew each other, discussed the signs and the star and decided to travel together to find the newborn Babe.

I often thought this story was left in the Bible as evidence of additional groups of people living far away from the Judean area who were also believers and that the magi would return to testify to these groups that the Son of God had indeed been born, and those testimonies would be written and passed down to bless the faithful in those far off places. Kenny Kemp has wondered some of these same things and has created an amazing story that will teach, inspire and move the reader. He takes the reader on a journey through ancient Greek, Egyptian, Jewish and Roman cultures, visiting the familiar and the unfamiliar, weaving a tapestry that recounts the greatest story ever told from a new voice.

His book also includes helpful maps and outstanding appendices that cover a variety of topics such as important historical figures and explanations of astrological charts that the magi may have used. The cameos of the historical figures, such as Euclid, Archimedes, Eratosthenes, and Thales, throughout the text serve to make the story come alive as well as give a deeper context to the overlapping cultures. It serves as a reminder that these cultures were not isolated and static, as they are often presented in history classes, but struggled with integrating and some of the diversity and political issues that face our culture today.

The story opens as Melchior, Supreme Pontiff of Alexandria, chronicles his life choices that put him on the path to Bethlehem seeking a king and how that one experience influences decisions for the rest of his life. In this tale, the magi did not take their journey together, but came from different regions, all following the signs and the star they had seen. They meet and discuss a plan to find the new king, eventually arriving at the home of Joseph and Mary. Melchior returns to Alexandria, but not before becoming tied quite closely to the Holy Family. He is Greek, lives and worships in the Egyptian way, and is subject to Rome. He is conflicted about who he truly is and his life’s purpose. He doubts and questions what and whom to believe, the Egyptian gods that give him his livelihood or the one the Jews have been following for centuries. The more he seeks for faith and truth, the more he is led to Jesus.

Melchior spends the next 30 or so years going through various trials and personal heartaches until, as an old broken man who has lost or given away everything he most prized, he decides to go seek Jesus Christ in Judea. He knows Jesus was born to be the Jewish king and he goes to find Him on the throne, but He is not there.

Melchior searches for anyone who knows Jesus or His family and starts finding believers throughout Galilee and down to Jerusalem, who all have experiences to relate of how this man worked miracles in their lives and changed their hearts forever. Melchior continues to travel throughout Judea trying desperately to encounter his friend from so long ago.

As the events unfold, it becomes obvious that the final Passover week is here and then the final days of the trials and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. His conversation with the Lord reminds me that we need to give away all of our old life until we get down to what is our most fundamental core so we can meet the Lord heart to heart, without pretense or posturing.

As the story draws to an end, Melchior is writing down his experiences to leave as a legacy for those who follow after. Even though in his later days he loses half his eyesight, he ends up with clearer vision than he had years previously when he had both of his eyes fully functioning. This book resonates with more of an Easter theme than a Christmas one, I think, but then I remind myself that without Christmas there would be no Easter. I would pick it up the first time at Christmas because of the title, and then again during the Easter season because of the message.

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