PROVOCATIVE, HAUNTING AND INDELIBLE, Colm Tóibín’s portrait of Mary presents her as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity.
In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son’s crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel. They are her keepers, providing her with food and shelter and visiting her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was “worth it”; nor that the “group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye,” were holy disciples.
Mary judges herself ruthlessly (she did not stay at the foot of the Cross until her son died—she fled, to save herself), and her judgment of others is equally harsh. This woman whom we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone. Tóibín’s tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.
T ib n (Brooklyn) has chosen Jesus' mother as the narrator of his poignant reimagining of the last days of Christ. Mary doesn't think her son is the son of God; in fact, she's convinced that he's simply running with the wrong crowd, "Something about the earnestness of those young men repelled me... the sense that there was something missing in each one of them." But when she recounts the story of Lazarus's return from the grave, she presents no other explanation than that of his sisters, that Jesus was the one who brought him back. At the wedding at Cana, she sees Lazarus for herself and finds that "he was in possession of a knowledge that seemed to me to have unnerved him; he had tasted something or seen or heard something which had filled him with the purest pain...." This beautiful novella turns on who or what Mary should believe about her son's life and death and on a mother's grief: "I saw that once again he was trying to remove the thorns that were cutting into his forehead and the back of his head and, failing to do anything to help himself, he lifted his head for a moment and his eyes caught mine."
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My feelings are complicated
Makes me wish I had a book group to discuss this with. Beautifully written and maybe a little sacrilegious, but so compelling.