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WOMAN IN RED

MAGDALENE SPEAKS

An idea-filled and richly atmospheric elaboration on the story of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

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A debut novel focuses on Mary Magdalene and the hidden history of Christianity.

Rose’s big, ambitious book takes the familiar elements of the Jesus story as found in the New Testament, shifts and transforms them, and then extrapolates an intricate next chapter to that narrative. The center of the tale is Mary Magdalene (called the Magdalene), a recurring character in the four Gospels. The novel opens with the Magdalene at the foot of the cross, watching her husband, Jesus (here named “Jesu”), die at the hands of the Romans. Suddenly, she finds herself “a wife without a husband, a disciple without a master,” adrift in a world without the man she and all of his followers consider the Messiah. Joseph of Arimathea orders the body taken down and entombed. He reveals to the Magdalene that he secretly drugged the crucified Jesu—and now he hopes she can revive him. When she fails, Joseph and some allies remove the body from the tomb to prevent the Jewish authorities from parading the corpse to dispel the public perception of Jesu as a supernatural being. Joseph convinces Mary to tell Jesu’s disciples that he rose from the dead (“To declare Jesu as the resurrected prince of peace, in spirit, would indeed pave the way for remarkable change,” she thinks, “as well as the betterment of society at large”). But soon she learns he actually did survive, although he is severely weakened. The two leave Judea, and the vivid narrative follows the Magdalene to Western Europe and Jesu to India, with increasingly lengthy philosophical and religious digressions along the way. Millions of The Da Vinci Code readers will feel right at home in the world Rose creates, a realm in which Mary Magdalene is a key religious figure and has children with a very human Jesus, who survives his Crucifixion. The author handles it all with skill and confidence, despite occasional minor missteps (somebody is “muttering something illegible,” for instance). The tale of Jesu and the Magdalene’s subsequent adventures is made into page-turning reading.

An idea-filled and richly atmospheric elaboration on the story of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68433-429-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2020

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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