Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary is Beautifully Written.

Posted on December 21, 2012
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In his new book, The Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin humanizes the Jesus story by telling it from the perspective of his Jewish mother.  The Mary Mr. Toibin renders here lives her life in fear.  She fears the semi-hidden agents of Rome–“…the men who played dice close to where the crosses were…”  But perhaps just as much, she fears the followers of her crucified son, including one who hovers close and “…scowls impatiently when the story I tell them does not stretch to whatever limits he has ordained…”

Mary’s reticence is shattered rarely. In one instance, when she is told Rome will be searching for his followers she protests: “I am not one of his followers!” In another,  she repeatedly refers to her dead husband as Jesus’s father.  These deviances from the “ordained” testament keep this story interesting. But this book is not a mere retelling of a familiar tale.  It is a passionate, in-depth characterization of a mother who loses her son.  The reader experiences her emotional life in real time.  Her fears, her (occasional) hopes and above all her dreams are vividly depicted.

Mr. Toibin is now at the height of his literary powers and however one feels about the subject matter, this book is beautifully written.

Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary is published by Scribner.

UPDATE 4/23/13:  A theatrical production of The Testament of Mary opened on Broadway last night.  There were reportedly protesters on hand. I doubt they read the book, though.

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