Mari is the daughter of a sardine merchant who dotes on her and a mother who thinks that it is her duty to train her daughter for the hard life of a Jewish woman in a Magdala ruled by Romans. Married at fourteen to an older man who ignores her and living in a household of women who despise her, Mari’s only comforts are her visions of the ancient prophet Maryam, sister of Moses, and the secret world of friends that live in her mind. When her husband dies unexpectedly, Mari finds herself free of his unpleasant household, but now possessed by demons she thought were her friends. Her only hope is a controversial rabbi who wanders from place to place: Yeshua of Nazareth.
In the last fifteen years, dozens of novels have been written about the life of Mary Magdalene, but little of it is written for a younger audience. Beatrice Gormley has done a fine job of making this misunderstood saint accessible to young readers by casting Mary Magdalene as one of them. Mari’s story is compelling, as Gormley does a good maintaining the tension between Mari and her family and Mari and her demons. While I loved the story, I was disappointed that Gormley did not follow Mary Magdalene through to her most important moment, becoming the apostle to the apostles when the risen Christ appears to her and tells her to share this revelation with the other apostles. This vision that made her famous should have been included in a story that is billed as an explanation of Mary Magdalene’s controversial persona.