By James Cowan
Paraclete Press, $19.99, 304 pages
Fleeing Herod logs James Cowan’s journey through Coptic Egypt, following the route envisioned to be the one taken by Joseph and Mary with the infant Jesus. Cowan’s primary sources for this route are texts familiar to Coptic Christians. Along the way, he visits monasteries and villages both currently inhabited and in ruins, where miracles reportedly occurred as the Holy Family traveled through. He views their journey from the perspective of those ancient days and considers their need to move continuously in order to remain safe. Many stories of the ancient Egyptians influenced the culture through which the Holy Family passed, and apparently influenced Jesus’ teachings. Monasteries opened their doors to him and shared their collective wisdom.
“Belief may be a part of my makeup, but not a belief in miracles. Somewhere along the way I, like many of my contemporaries, have lost the art of seeing objects as anything other than an accumulation of matter. I have lost the ability to see them from the perspective of their paut, their divine substance.”
Some terms Cowan uses in his writing will be foreign to many readers: anchorite, coenobitic, apatheia, katastasis. The book, though a wonderful memoir and travelogue, seems written with a particular audience in mind.
Reviewed by Mary-Lynne Monroe