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

WOMAN IN RED

MAGDALENE SPEAKS

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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