Monday, July 17, 2006

What if God was one of us?

Or rather, what if Mary was one of us?

Of course, she was one of us. She was wiser and more patient than I’ll ever be but completely human, nonetheless. Two Women of Galilee imagines part of her life as she interacts with characters who make brief appearances in the Bible.

The main character, Joanna, suffers from consumption and has tried every treatment that Roman doctors or supernatural healers can provide. Her illness and curiosity lead her to followers of Jesus. When Joanna encounters Mary, she is surprised to learn that the Healer's mother is her cousin.

The story of their estrangement and reunion is based in the context of the Roman occupation. When the Romans took control, Mary’s father took his family out of the city and raised his daughter according to the ancient traditions. His brother, Joanna’s father, recognized an opportunity and kept his family in the city; they gave up their religious beliefs and pledged allegiance to Caesar. Assimilating with the Roman occupants, Joanna’s family became wealthy. She married Herod’s chief steward and her friend among the elite women of the court is Claudia Procula, Pilate’s wife.

It is a clever take on the events that led up to Christ’s crucifixion. Rourke gives her readers credit for being familiar with the Passion and does not re-tell that story but describes events that unfolded behind the scenes. For example, the Bible tells us that Joseph, a good and righteous man from Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; this novel imagines how—and why—Joseph took care of the burial arrangements.

Rourke has applied a backstory to the gospels and seeks to remind us that everyone is here for a reason.
“Look to the whole story, not the small part that each person plays.” ~ from Two Women of Galilee

This is a good beach read or-- if you also happen to live in Kansas--a good backyard/poolside read! There are a few distracting typos but they might be caught by the time the book comes out in paperback.

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