Review

The Secret Magdalene

by Ki Longfellow

THE SECRET MAGDALENE is an outrageously inventive work of fiction about the early Christian years, during the life and times of Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ. The 400-plus-page novel, which includes a bibliography with several pages of source material, is divided by scrolls rather than chapters. The first scroll begins with "The Voice" of Mariamne, the main character.

Through the voice of Mariamne --- a visionary and prophet with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge --- THE SECRET MAGDALENE takes readers on a journey thick with details and wild in imagination.

Mariamne is an adolescent Jewish girl who survived a childhood illness that left her hearing voices and experiencing visions. She lives in Jerusalem with her father Josephus and his ward, Salome, who also has the gift of prophecy. Mariamne and Salome are raised like sisters and are cared for by Tata, a household slave with worldly experience and a soft spot for her charges.

One night, during dinner, Mariamne is moved to speak in one of her prophetic voices, whose proclamation is witnessed by Josephus's dinner guests. Josephus immediately sends Mariamne to her room and makes excuses for her behavior, but one of the houseguests is intrigued by what he has heard and wants to learn more. For Mariamne, that night changes everything. A week later, because of a misunderstanding involving the houseguest and Salome, Josephus banishes Salome, Tata and Mariamne from his home.

With Mariamne's banishment, her quest begins. For both protection and ease of travel, Tata disguises Mariamne and Salome. Dressed as boys, they travel as child prophets who become known for their visions and wisdom. After parting ways with Tata, the young women travel with other companions to Alexandria in Egypt, where Mariamne and Salome become educated in philosophy and other areas of knowledge.

During subsequent travels, they meet John the Baptizer (John of the River), himself a great prophet. John of the River, believed by some to be the Messiah, harkens the arrival of the real Messiah and, in doing so, becomes a threat to those in power. Through John, Mariamne meets his cousin, Yeshu, a simple man who is becoming a famous healer, teacher and prophet --- and a man believed to be the Messiah.

With the encouragement of Yeshu, Mariamne shares the knowledge she learned during her studies in Egypt. She joins Yeshu as he teaches and heals, spreading his message of love and forgiveness to his followers, whose numbers continue to grow. In this fictional portrayal of historic events, places and people, Mariamne walks with Yeshu as he travels from Cana in Galilee, to Bethany in Judea, and into the garden of Gethsemane. She is present at the foot of his cross.

In THE SECRET MAGDALENE, Mary Magdalene steps out of the shadows and onto center stage. Through the fictional voice of Mariamne, Mary Magdalene is elevated to a position of prominence as a disciple and the beloved companion of Jesus Christ. This is a wildly imaginative novel that undoubtedly will attract a lot of attention and foster discussion about one of the most controversial and fascinating women in early Church history.

Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on January 23, 2011

The Secret Magdalene
by Ki Longfellow

  • Publication Date: March 27, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Crown
  • ISBN-10: 0307346668
  • ISBN-13: 9780307346667