The Testament of Mary.

Author:Toibin, Colm
Position:Book review

By Colm Toibin

Irish novelist, poet, and playwright Colm Toibin is the author of more than 20 works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Blackwater Lightship (1999), The Master (**** SELECTION Sept/Oct 2004), short-listed for the Booker Prize, and the Costa Novel Award--winning Brooklyn (**** July/Aug 2009).


THE STORY: Years after her son Jesus was crucified on Mount Calvary, Mary, old and impoverished, lives in a rented room in the city of Ephesus, where two unnamed "Evangelists" (most likely St. John and St. Paul) pester her for the details of her son's early life. Stubborn and cynical, Mary contemptuously refuses to tailor her memories to the dubious new religion these men seek to create. Instead, she relates the heart-wrenching story of a happy home devastated by the death of her beloved husband and her inability to save her misguided, wayward son from a brutal end. "When you say that he redeemed the world, I will say that it was not worth it."

Scribner. 96 pages. $19.99. ISBN: 9781451688382

Cleveland Plain Dealer ****

"The masterful Irish writer Colm Toibin puts a jackhammer to the cozy, safe, Christmas-card version [of Mary] in The Testament of Mary. ... Toibin's temerity is a shock, of course, but it pairs with an avidness to imagine a Mary who speaks, and to hear what she might have kept locked away in her heart." KAREN R. LONG

Entertainment Weekly ****

"Toibin's Mary does not believe Jesus was the son of God. That, understandably, will be a deal breaker for some readers. But if your faith is strong enough to accommodate one artist's alternative vision, [The] Testament [of Mary] is a spellbinding, surprisingly reverent book." JEFF GILES

Minneapolis Star Tribune ****

"Mary's counter-narrative culminates at Calvary, and as the crucifixion scene unfolds to its perhaps ordained conclusion, Mary offers us the immediate details, the minute and the horrifying. ... This beautifully written 'testament' speaks to the testimonial nature of other theological accounts. It is a work that will challenge all readers and offend some." TOM ZELMAN

NY Times Book Review ****

"Unlike other writers who, in rendering the historical past, leave their poetic and image-making gifts at the door, Toibin is at his lyrical best in The Testament of Mary. ... Originally performed as a one-woman show in Dublin, it takes its power from the surprises of its language, its almost shocking characterization, its austere refusal of consolation."...

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