Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother” as Want to Read:
Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  126 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Arguably the most influential of all women throughout history, Mary, the Virgin Mother is also, paradoxically, the least known. In this unprecedented brilliantly wrought biography, Mary comes believably to life.

We are so used to the legendary image of the Madonna that the very idea of her as a real person sets the eyes alight. Starting with the dark-skinned, hard-muscled
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 4th 2004 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2004)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mary, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mary

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Sep 24, 2010 rated it liked it
This should really be described as a fictional biography, if only for the very reason that the history of the Virgin Mary (and just about all women from that time in history) has been just about completely wiped out.

I thought often of The Red Tent, while reading this. I think Diamant had a much better approach than Lesley Hazleton does in Mary. Diamant fully embraces the history and research, but adds her own fictional writing gifts to create a powerful and potentially historically accurate tal
Judith Shadford
Oct 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
Rather infuriating, actually. Hazleton has lived in Israel/Palestine and has a good grasp of local color. But her agenda is rarely out of sight. I rather enjoyed Jezebel, sort of. There was real information and some plausible novelizing.
But her (Hazelton's) need to recreate a society of "strong" females leads her to dismiss, nearly out of hand, credence of Scriptural authenticity. This young Jewish girl, Mary, in her version, has a grandmother but no mother. Sits around the campfire listening t
Dec 14, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I would probably give this 3.5 stars. The anthropological aspect of it was so interesting. I loved reading about the atmosphere of Mary's time and place, and thought it really gave a lot of insight as to what it would have been like to live back then. However, I felt that after that the book took this wild feminist turn wherein the author was making these wild conjectures with no facts (which she admits) and then relying on them as truth to build more of the "biography" of Mary, and that part I ...more
Andrew [A]
Jun 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
Jewish kabbalist new age take on Mary... if the statement "i mean, who actually believes in the virgin birth and the resurrection literally, give me a break" offends you, this book will offend you. And as always, combining a narrative with history-for-dummies will frustrate history buffs. As well as the rather strange choice of paralleling Mary to the Palestinian resistance. However, there are many ideas and images in the book that illuminated my search for the true face of the Virgin Mother.

Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is a miracle. Does the impossible - presents a fresh view of Mary, the mother of Jesus - a view that sweeps away all the pious legends that have gradually accumulated around her during the last two millennia - removes the veils that the devout have thrown over her, the veils that have obscured her humanity - have turned her into an "near divinity", an object of veneration, of worship. This book is a biography of a very different Mary, of a real flesh-and-blood woman. Hazleton, rather d ...more
Nathan Dehoff
May 04, 2016 rated it liked it
While well-written, this book struck me as more historical fiction than biography. But then, unless you're just recapping what others have said, we don't have that much information on Mary. She's a significant part of theology, particularly for the Catholic Church, but the little information on her we find in the gospels is fragmentary and often contradictory. At least she fares better than her husband in this respect. As Hazleton points out, only the Gospel of John even mentions Mary's presence ...more
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
I took this book with a BOULDER of salt and think (if I may say so) that others would do well to do the same. As the other reviews attest, this is very far from being a biography in any sense. The fictionalized descriptions of her grandmother, and what she or Maryam were thinking at a certain time, were especially far-fetched and didn't add much to the story.
I can appreciate what Hazleton tries to do here: give the reader a space to imagine the "Flesh and blood" Mary, most fundamentally her pea
Oct 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book would would not appeal to those who interpret The Bible literally. For those who view The Bible as a reflection of numerous stories passed on since the death of Jesus, I believe that reading it would enrich their beliefs about that time period. The book is divided into three parts. The first part sets the stage by describing the culture where Mary grew up and uses that to speculate on what Mary's everyday life was like. The second part goes into detail about her pregnancy at the age of ...more
Lynne Marchetti
Jul 17, 2012 rated it liked it
A truthful telling of who Mary, the mother of Jesus, really may have been.
What her time were like and where the notion of "virgin" may come from.

Lesley Hazleton has a grasp of the Aramic language as well as Herbrew and Arab languages so pulls a lot of her wisdom from
translations that may need tweaking.

The first 2/3 of the book were slow but the end 1/3 was worth the wait.

If your curious enough to delve into who Mary "is" then you'll like the information in this book. I took it out of the libra
Dec 28, 2011 rated it liked it
I picked this book because I couldn't believe The Stranger had selected a writer on religious/middle east issues for their 2011 Genius Award. I had to see what this was about. I really enjoyed this because it is difficult to picture life in those times, especially for women. Of course, this is based on research of life in those times/anthropology/biblical (and other writings) scholarship. So, "biography" might be a strong word. Some of the hypotheses seem a bit far out, but they really gave me s ...more
Manuel Sanchez
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Challenging biography that radically re-envisions the life of Mary, restoring her as both a real woman and a powerful spiritual leader. Author, an avowed agnostic, takes some disturbing license in this retelling which assumes and excludes all events that are miraculous and seeks out a different perspective or cause for those events. No virgin birth, no visit by angels, no exile in Egypt and no physical resurrection of her son. I enjoyed how it challenged by faith and perspective, as well as apoc ...more
Dec 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
I guess I am too traditional to accept Lesley Hazleton's many assumptions. She drew from the Gnostic and much of the apochryphal literature to write her book. I don't know what she could have done considering the dearth of information available, but since I reject most of those writings, I couldn't ever really get behind this portrayal of Mary. I did have a lot of thinking to do as I read, and that is never a bad thing.
Oct 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. There were some really beautifully poetic passages and sentiments, but something about it just seemed false.

I read another review that stated the authors agenda was really obvious, and it is, but that said is it entirely wrong? I kind of like the reframing of what we know as Christianity as more female centric, that said it was pretty idealistic in a way that is somewhat hard to swallow.
Sarah -
May 31, 2015 rated it liked it
I am really struggling to review this one. Especially as the Gnostic discussion grew more frequent in the last ten or so pages. I will have to think a while longer and hopefully give a decent review in the future. I can say that I enjoyed the set-up, the 'what daily life was like' aspects. But the parts relating to Mary herself, someone we can never really know anything about besides what the Bible provides? I am feeling disgruntled but can't yet put it exactly into words.
Karen Mcintyre
Jul 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a great book -- it humanizes an all too often dehumanized character of biblical proportion!

Written by a Jew -- it gives a really fresh understanding of the what Mary's life might have been like. All good midrash helps us rethink conventions we have accepted and this book was no exception.

Her descriptions bring temple to life with the smell of blood offerings and the chaotic noises that accompanied the chorus of everyday life.

An excellent read!
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I've enjoyed and learned from everything I've read by Lesley Hazleton. Mary is no different. Although there are not a lot of historical sources for a true biography of Mary, Prof. Hazleton creates a believable (to me) backdrop of how her life might have been lived 300-400 years before the church conflated and absorbed other spiritual practices and beliefs.
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Mary is another example of the wonderful writing that Lesley Hazleton produces. I loved the contextualization of Maryam, the way that it brought her to life. The idea of Mary as a teacher of Jesus seemed at first startling and then obvious. This book empowers the woman who became the mother of Christ and does so beautifully.
Jonathan Widell
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Either you love it or hate it. Virgin Mary is not the easiest subject to write about if your project is to look at the person behind the myth, and at times it shows. I admire the boldness of her approach of portraying Mary as a real flesh-and-blood human being. I like the result, which is a thought-provoking biography, to say the least.
Nov 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Writing this review years after reading the book, I recall enjoying the read tremendously. Picking it up again to see why, I am caught by the writing again, the blend of fact, supposition, historical accuracy and imagination. Not one bit about religion, it is simply the tale of a simple girl/woman and how it was to live at this time amongst these events. It's going back on my to-read shelf...
Cadence Woodland
Jul 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Fictional or at least conceptual biography. I would have been far more interested in a more in depth exploration of the evolution of the myths and perceptions of Mary, which is what I really expected.
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
I didn't finish reading this book. It was just over my head and not what I though it would be. It does, however, paint a very clear picture of what life was like in the time of Mary. I must say it was not at all as I pictured and very informative. I just couldn't stick with it till the end.
Oct 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
What do you do when your protagonist lived two thousand years ago in a world that everyone thinks they know something about, but pretty much everything they think they know is wrong? Ask Lesley Hazleton. She managed this delicate situation beautifully in this book.
Sep 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cutting edge readers
This amazing book makes the historical-mythological woman come ALIVE - flesh and blood. Leslie is bold and thorough, with pages of footnotes to back up her research. don't miss this. "Jezebel" by the same author will be out this fall.
Aug 30, 2007 added it
only read half the book.
Dec 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Compelling fictionalized life of the Virgin Mary. Hazelton makes a compelling point that Mary is neither the Madonna of the Renaissance nor a virgin in the 20th century sense.
Jodi Bash
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Can't be a fundamentalist christian to enjoy this one, but it certainly gave a huge boost to my faith...
Aug 31, 2007 rated it liked it
interesting historical and speculative perspective of Mary.
Adam Hummel
May 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
Loved her other books about Muhammed and Islamic History - this book fell pretty flat with me. Not much history, all speculation, story-telling, not much substance or what I was looking for.
Nov 27, 2009 marked it as to-read
recommended by book lust
Apr 22, 2014 rated it liked it
A bit overly political but good piece. I did think a lot was made up and her thoughts but it was weirdly compelling.
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning
  • God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life
  • Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters
  • God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage
  • Prayers of the Cosmos: Reflections on the Original Meaning of Jesus's Words
  • Uppity Women of the New World
  • A Blue Hand: The Beats in India
  • With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman
  • Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with the Artists and Outlaws of New York's Rebel Mecca
  • The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary
  • An Exorcist Tells His Story
  • God's Lunatics: Lost Souls, False Prophets, Martyred Saints, Murderous Cults, Demonic Nuns, and Other Victims of Man's Eternal Search for the Divine
  • Saint-Exupéry
  • I Love a Broad Margin to My Life
  • Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio: His Life in His Own Words
  • Brown: The Last Discovery of America
  • The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus
  • After the Falls
1. My new book 'Jezebel: the untold story of the bible's harlot queen' is just out (Doubleday). Yes, she was framed. No, she was no harlot. Yes, she was magnificent.

2. Won't bore you with the whole bio -- it's in the 'About the Author' page on For now: British-born, lived for a long time in the Middle East, now live in the very Pacific Northwest.

3. Favorite drink is grappa.
More about Lesley Hazleton...