Review

Mary Magdalene

by Diana Wallis Taylor

In keeping with her focus on female biblical characters, Diana Wallis Taylor (author of JOURNEY TO THE WELL and MARTHA) writes an emotionally moving tale, beginning with young Mary’s childhood and how her demonic possession may have had its start.

The only surviving child of Jared and Rachel, 12-year-old Mary is wonderstruck by life, faith, and all the beautiful things life has to behold. She has a tender heart and a great devotion to her parents. Eliab, the six-feet-plus African who is sworn to protect her family, also tenderly guards Mary. Mary’s father, Jared, owns a shipbuilding business with his scheming brother, Zerah, whose motives are rarely above suspicion. As a testament to Jared and Rachel’s love for Mary, they hire childhood friend Nathan (now a tutor) to teach her the Torah, a privilege unheard of in Mary’s time.

"As Taylor depicts throughout this lively work of fiction, nothing is ever certain or beyond hope when Jesus enters the picture. Readers will enjoy the story of what might have happened to this colorful and mysterious biblical figure who plays out so prominently in the New Testament."

What a bright and blossoming flower Mary was in her youth. Who knows how her story might have changed if not for the dark shadow that suddenly comes upon her after a single traumatizing incident? One evening, the faithful Eliab guards the family gate when two men attack him and then proceed to climb a ladder into Mary’s bedroom, kidnapping her and holding her for ransom. Terrified by these violent strangers who threaten to rape her and place her into prostitution, Mary fears for her very life as she sits bound in a darkened room praying for help to arrive. Jared, upon receiving the ransom note, immediately offers  to pay the princely sum to retrieve his beloved daughter; but as he carries out the kidnappers’ instructions, he is attacked. Though severely injured, both Jared and Mary escape her captors. Life is forever altered, but resumes normally once again, except that Mary is now prone to nightmarish visions and fears that take hold of her.

Mary suffers increasingly from seizures and headaches, and lives in constant fear that one will occur when she is out in public. Her family takes special care to guard Mary and her reputation, but it doesn’t take long for cruel villagers to refer to her as Mad Mary. Above all, Jared seeks a loving husband for her and finds one in Nathan, who marries and loves her tenderly despite her affliction. Years pass, and Mary’s condition grows far worse, until she is rendered incapacitated by it and Nathan grows weary of caring for someone who is a wife in name only. No children come, and the future looks so bleak.

Then Mary’s parents die, and what little support Nathan had in caring for Mary has died too. Just when all hope seems lost, Nathan hears of a healer: Jesus.

As Taylor depicts throughout this lively work of fiction, nothing is ever certain or beyond hope when Jesus enters the picture. Readers will enjoy the story of what might have happened to this colorful and mysterious biblical figure who plays out so prominently in the New Testament.

Reviewed by Michele Howe on June 21, 2012

Mary Magdalene
by Diana Wallis Taylor