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The Testament of Mary
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Archive: Other Books > Testament of Mary -Toibin - 4 stars (DECATHALON)

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Jgrace | 3112 comments The Testament of Mary - Toibin
Audio performance by Meryl Streep
4 stars

This is a very sad story. It’s a very powerful piece of writing. It is a very moving, imagined, first person account of an aging Mary, mother of Jesus. (Although, If I remember correctly, neither Jesus or any of the disciples is mentioned by name.) This Mary of Nazareth is a fugitive, living in Ephesus under the protective custody of her ‘keepers’ who are presumably followers of her son. This novella records the private thoughts of a woman who is traumatized by the death of her son. She is haunted by her memories of that death. She is cynical about everything pertaining to her son’s ministry, his followers, and the events leading to his death. She understands that she is being used to further the message of his followers and that she will continue to be used after her death. This woman’s grief at her loss and her guilt at leaving her son before his final moments are more than heart wrenching. Along with that grief, she is testifying to her complete lack of power. She cannot testify to the truth of the story as she saw it. She knows her words will be distorted.

I thought this was a very interesting interpretation of a well known story. It would be thought provoking even without the excellent prose. It’s a plausible take on how events could be rewritten into a desired mythology. I knew it was not much more than a short story when I started it, but I’m still left with a wish for a more detailed account. Toibin imagined the testament that might of been given by a woman. There isn’t an actual historical record by any woman. It can only be imagined.


message 2: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2105 comments Very thought provoking though I have imagined her differently. Mary was a very faithful woman. Most of her words recorded in the bible are quotes from the Hebrew scriptures. She attended the yearly visits to Jerusalem to worship at the temple even though women were not required to. She was present at Jesus death when it can be inferred that Jospeh was already dead and her other sons had not yet become followers of Jesus. It is also plausible that she saw Jesus after he was resurrected. Therefore, I envision her as a strong and faithful woman in the first century congregations, helping to spread the message of Jesus and not cynical or powerless.


Jgrace | 3112 comments Jason wrote: "Very thought provoking though I have imagined her differently. Mary was a very faithful woman. Most of her words recorded in the bible are quotes from the Hebrew scriptures. She attended the yearly..."

This was clearly a secular interpretation, Jason. I thought it was an interesting perspective, and powerfully written. It was not necessarily theologically correct. The historical accuracy and the theological interpretations of Mary are obviously and endlessly subject to debate and opinion.

When I read Toibin's interpretation, I put myself in the place of his character. As a woman I could sympathize with her.


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