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

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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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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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