Exotic customs, spiritual upheavals and personal growth surround Mary, mother of Jesus, in her new life in Ephesus in Bacon’s in-depth historical drama.
It’s been a year since Mary lost her son, Jesus, and grief still consumes her. Since Jerusalem is not safe, Mary has moved to Ephesus to heal and to assist John, her son’s devoted disciple, and his fledgling church within the Jewish Diaspora community. Though bewildered by the Greco-Roman society’s worship of Artemis, the goddess protector of the city, and by the people’s strange customs, Mary tries to find her niche in this world. She becomes the Judean guardian of the sacred spring and performs the purification ritual for the Jewish people. Yet she eagerly awaits her son’s return and prays to him every night, asking him for guidance as she navigates new friendships and unfamiliar sights. But it is the appearance of Paul and his claims of her son’s divinity that throws all that she knows into disarray. How can she reconcile her Jewish faith with Paul’s preaching and her admiration for the Greek religion she’s come to respect? For Mary, it’s a journey fraught with emotional turmoil, enlightenment and spiritual soul-searching—one that will lead to a startling conclusion. Bacon has certainly done her research, and the reader will be immersed in the rich history and customs of the biblical world. Her meticulous descriptions sometimes slow the narrative, though those who are fascinated by such detail will relish each one. But it is in crafting Mary’s character that Bacon shines as she adds another dimension to a woman known mostly for being Jesus’ mother. Also fascinating is the intimate glimpse into Paul’s ministry and how it was received by the different cultures. Mary personifies how many must have felt in hearing this bold new message that clearly conflicted with the Jewish faith.
Though the tradition of Mary in Ephesus is more myth than fact, this is nevertheless a fascinating account of what might have been.