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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 26, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I loved this book. More importantly, I have thought a lot about it -- what it means to be a spouse, a parent, a Christian, a citizen of the world; what it means to forgive and be forgiven; what it means to take risks -- and what qualifies as a risk.

It is not perfect. The first 50 pages were tough going -- the first-person narrative seemed to meander around, discussing everything but the plot of the novel. It is the author's way of letting the reader get to know Mary-Margaret before the reader knows her story; it works imperfectly.

After the slow start, the narrator (Mary-Margaret) starts dropping hints about what transpired in her very interesting life. As one reviewer noted, about everything imaginable happened to MM or to someone for whom she cared. This approach keeps the reader's interest, but it does feel a little manipulative.

At the core of the book is a love story between MM and Jesus. Yes, MM loves a flesh-and-blood man as well (and also has deep platonic relationships with many others), but Jesus is her passion. When I re-read my last sentence, I think to myself, "How can one make a relationship with God interesting to a reader -- who necessarily is outside the relationship?" Samson has accomplished this task by making MM very real and by making MM's Jesus very real to her. At the end of the day, all of the plot devices (loves, dangers, deaths, births, lies, diseases, frustrations -- yes, many are over-the-top) exist to 'flesh out' MM's relationship with Jesus.

As a Protestant, I have wondered why Catholic priests and nuns are not permitted to marry. My thought process was, "If a Protestant minister and his/her spouse can be effective in the same community that has a Catholic church, why cannot the Catholic priest also marry?" I now understand that my utiliterian approach to this issue completely missed the mark. This book opened my eyes to the level of commitment that a 'religious' person can have to God and the intensity that the relationship with God can be. For MM, at times, her love of Jesus was all-consuming. In fact, she had to step away a bit from the intensity of that relationship to care for her husband and child during that phase of her life, and that decision was painful -- and joyous -- for her.

My description of MM makes her sound holier-than-thou and rather boring. She is not boring! She is witty, creative, spirited, willful, and silly. She reminds me of no one -- and of everyone.

Samson's prose can be just right. At one point, MM writes, "I'm the most me I ever am around my son." The book is peppered with lines that speak deeply about MM's relationship with Jesus, her husband, her birth family, and her best friend.

I recommend this book to any Christian who enjoys novels about ideas and relationships.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 21, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Many books are written in the first person narrative however few are as folksy and tender as The Passion of Mary-Margaret. Mary-Margaret, a religious sister, pens the tale of her life as she is coming to the end of it. The story flashes back and forward several times as thoughts change and enter her mind. The thread feels very much like an elderly person's pattern of speech. It reminded me a little of Mark Twain's "Jim Baker's Blue Jay Yarn" where Jim told one story after another in what seemed like an endless supply of seemingly unconnected tales.

But in The Passion of Mary-Margaret, the theme is quite clear throughout. Mary-Margaret is an unusual character who knows at a very young age that she loves Jesus and will always serve as a religious sister. Jesus puts many broken people in her path and she consistently and lovingly introduces them to their Savior. Redemption and loving service are very strong throughout.

Unlike many stories of religion or religious orders, Mary-Margaret's story is unusual because her Jesus is very personal. She may go through the religious rites but her personal relationship with her God colors everything she does or touches. It is a very refreshing outlook and takes into account true life rather than just looking the other way when bad things happen.

The book's description was a little deceptive because her story revolves around her relationship with Jesus, not with Jude, the earthly love of her life. And I found this all the more entrancing. Jude's storyline supported this especially when she was asked to show him love that would ultimately change the course of her life.

The only reason I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 was that it moved slowly. The stops and starts of Mary-Margaret's narrative, however indicative of an elderly narrator, seemed excessive at times. For me, it broke the rhythm of the story and it took a lot of concentration to stay in the story. It is well written and deep and the stop/start narrative isn't conducive to the depth, in my opinion.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 17, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Silly me. I held off reading this book for a while thinking it would be boring. Silly, silly me. What I didn't expect was The Passion of Mary-Margaret to knock me out of my socks they way it did.

I loved, loved, loved this book! The Passion of Mary-Margaret has got to be one of the amazing fictional Christian books out there dealing with the subject of redeeming love. I couldn't put this book down for several days as I read it.

In my brief, inept way, The Passion of Mary-Margaret is a type of Hosea love story. Only the prostitute is Jude and the pursuer is Mary-Margaret (MM). Only MM's first love - her desire throughout the whole book - is to Jesus Christ and her selfless devotion to serve Him and the people of the community as a Sister(just short of being a nun) in the Catholic faith. However, Jesus calls her to set aside her current ambitions as a Sister in the Faith to go pursue Jude, a handsome boy she had a stirring but harmless crush on during her childhood. Only he's not a boy anymore and he's not so innocent. And after all the mistakes he's done, and all the memories of his abusive past, he has no desire to be loved or redeemed. He just wants to rot away and die alone.

Lisa Sampson did a pretty amazing job writing a book in a journal format. Just when you knew what was going to happen, Lisa drops a tidbit that would leave you surprised and screaming for more. And the ending!

My favorite parts in this book were the times MM and Jesus would have face-to-face talks. MM always doubted her sanity when she'd have her talks with Jesus and never spoke of them to anyone, but she also relished them to no end. And the moments where Jesus laughed....I just had to stop and soak it in.

The Passion of Mary Margaret is truly an amazing fictional love story. It's love in demonstration in so many levels. Brotherly love, heavenly love, erotic love, and overall selfless love. It's beauty is how God can take things that were beaten, battered, and forgotten and turn it around for good. Beauty from ashes.

This is a Wow, Wow, Wow book. Seriously consider reading it.

(PS: After you read this book, consider reading "Love Revolution" by Joyce Meyers. It's non-fiction, but you are impacted by the love demonstrated in this book which is fiction, Joyce Meyers helps you to consider what you can do in real life to impact lives in amazing ways with small demonstrations of love.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 4, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"...sometimes miracles are small and, to the naked eye, even a little insane."

This quote comes directly from The Passion of Mary-Margaret and it is just one of many delights of this novel.

I have never read anything by Lisa Samson. Truth be told, I avoid 'religious'-tinged books as much as I can.

Fake, fantastical, paranormal, new age-y stuff, I'll read. But insert 'spiritual' and 'journey' or somesuch similarity (and it doesn't matter which religion - I'm an equal opportunity avoider) and I put the book down without a second thought and no temptation to give it a second glance.

But reading Lisa Samson's The Passion of Mary-Margaret makes me wonder if I have been missing out on some good books.

Or maybe The Passion of Mary-Margaret is just singularly special.

Mary-Margaret is a woman who grew up on a small island as an orphan of a woman who was allegedly raped by a seminarian. This mysterious parentage will be a theme throughout the book, but not the main one. The main theme is about faith and obedience to one's calling and how it will enrich a life when its call is heeded.

At the age of nine, she meets a gorgeous boy named Jude. He's the youngest Keller boy and in time, they start a friendship that grows into an undeniable attraction.

Yet, Mary-Margaret has other plans. Her dream is to become a nun and this is no frivolous plot device. It is part and parcel of who the stubborn, funny and determined Mary-Margaret is. For Mary-Margaret loves Jesus in a profound, tangible way so when He gives her instructions to abandon her dream to save the tormented Jude, she does it.

But not without a little grumbling and a little confusion which adds to the charm of this novel.

Populated by wonderful, flawed, flesh-and-blood real characters, the center of it all is Mary-Margaret, her love for Jesus and her love for Jude (who, in spite of his tortured past, is as funny and engaging as Mary-Margaret).

What was most wonderful to me about this novel was how love in all its different stages and forms was celebrated and enjoyed even when there was pain and suffering. It also reminded me that a 'spiritual journey' is called a 'journey' for a reason and that it is ongoing in both big and small ways.

And for that reason (amongst many), I am grateful that I was given the privilege to read this novel.

Truly, truly a pleasure to read and a novel that I will be recommending to all of my book loving family.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2009
I adored this book.


* It reminded me of Marilynn Robinson's Gilead.
* The voicing of Mary-Margaret and each character was completely distinct and beautiful.
* Though not necessarily a suspenseful book, I couldn't wait to turn the page.
* The language was stunning. Sometimes I would read a sentence, then put the book down, wondering how Lisa could conjure up such beauty. Her words took my breath away.
* The story was redemptive, surprising, and invitational.
* The way Lisa wove the story stunned me. She made me want to write better books. That doesn't happen to me often.

Here are some examples of breathless writing:

* I wrung out the sponge and began circling it atop the tables, the pristine aroma of the lemon detergent released into the air, the sponge leaving a shining wake. (p. 108)
* Lindelle nodded and looked up at me, blue eyes shattered into too many pieces for a human to count. (p. 137).
* Now, I don't mean to be proud, but white Maryland sweet corn on the cob, the kind we call Silver Queen, is quite possibly the best corn on the cob you['ll ever eat. Uniform kernels, so sweet that the sugar juice bursts from the kernel, mixes with the butter and salt, and if you weren't holding the steaming cob, you'd clap. (p. 212).

Folks, if you love beautiful writing, a great story, and unforgettable characters, buy this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I didn't know the author of this book or her other writing, but I figured this was a mainstream book when I ordered it on Vine. I kept expecting things to turn to the worse as an arty book would do. Things certainly aren't all roses for the main character, Mary-Margaret, but this was one of the most uplifting books I've ever read. Once in a great while I read something that just emanates spirituality. The main characters (not just the protagonist) illustrate how simple people can be forces for good.

Besides the lovely characters and ups and downs of their lives, the writing is superb. The set-up of a memoir teases you into reading the next chapter to find out what happened in that part of Mary-Margaret's life. The style flows smoothly along, wrapping you up in the story without jarring you out of it. Many try for this style of lyricism, ending up sounding very clumsy, but Samson writes amazing imagery that's light as a feather.

If you want a story about interesting and spiritual people who go through several twists (some of them ugly) in life, read this. Buy it, borrow it, whatever you need to do, if you want a good story about faith.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2009
It's rare that a book pulls me into the story, the life of the character so intensely I actually feel everything the character does. It's rare I cry while reading, but when I do you can bet the book's a keeper.

The Passion of Mary-Margaret is one such book. The voice hooked me from the first page, written by a seventy year old woman as her memoirs. At first I thought it'd be hard to follow since the main character often goes back and forth between her memories and her present life, but don't let that deter you from reading.

It's a story of passion, unconditional love, and obedience mixed with mystery, heartbreak, and redemption that will leave you satisfied and profoundly touched, wishing that Jesus would pull up a chair and visit with you like he did with Mary-Margaret.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Comtemporary Christian fiction is the genre that "The Passion Of Mary-Margaret" inhabits. The novel is the autobiography of Mary-Margaret as it weaves flashbacks with the present. It themes include drug addiction, AIDS, murder, lust, male prostitution, forgiveness and redemption. While told from a Catholic perspective, and set on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, one need not be either Catholic nor familiar with Maryland to enjoy this story. Mary-Margaret is a marvelous character of faith who copes with the cross that she must carry. The author mixes realism with faithfulness in the right portions to make this an unforgetable tale.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When I started reading this book I was not sure what kind of review I would give. As a practicing Roman Catholic, I was concerned, when I started reading, where the author was going with the story. But to my delight this book turned out to be a sweet and poignant story about a young girl and her obedience to God. I am not sure if the author is Catholic or not but I give her kudos for her respect to my faith. Overall, this was a satisfying read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2009
Mary-Margaret Fischer emerges into the world at the same moment her mother is leaving it. "Conceived in sin and birthed in sorrow," she is the tangible result of a seminary student forcing himself upon her mother, who had just taken her vows as a School Sister of Notre Dame. Now in her 70s, Mary-Margaret, along with her circle of sisters, is somewhat reluctantly writing her memoir "for those who will follow us, so they'll know that sometimes God calls us to do things we may never understand, and that sometimes God calls us to do things we can grasp the reason of right away. Usually there's a little of both in the mix, if you live long enough and develop the capability of recognizing the Divine fingerprint. Holy smudges abound, indeed."

Raised by her grandmother and aunt, and later by the sisters of St. Mary's Convent School, Mary-Margaret's earliest memories include Jude Keller, the lightkeeper's son, who would take her life sailing, spiraling and diving like the kites he loved to fly. The other was Jesus, who overflowed her heart with love, even when guiding her down paths she didn't want to go. Her visits from Jesus were perhaps my favorite parts as they continued on through the years, powerful in their brevity and simplicity. Lisa Samson made these conversations believable and wonderful. But let's get on with the story.

Jude grows better looking and a little rougher around the edges with each passing year. There is something about him that excites the young Mary-Margaret, and something about her that he keeps inside his heart's only tender spot, reserved for no one else. As teenagers, the choices they take head them in far different directions, and it seems implausible the two could possibly end up together. But God has plans for them both, and together they must be.

Mary-Margaret moves diligently toward her dream of becoming a sister, serving in the South during the civil rights movement. When she attempts to merge the black and white classrooms of a Catholic school, she is mercilessly beaten by the KKK while the school burns down. Meanwhile, Jude, who ran away from an abusive home situation, has fallen into a life of prostitution and drugs. Weeks before Mary-Margaret is to take her vows, Jude visits her. Gaunt and faded, Jude confesses his drug abuse and his continued lifestyle of prostitution. He promises to meet her the next day to talk more, but never shows up. Shortly thereafter, Mary-Margaret learns he has syphilis. The next time Jesus visits her, He says He wants her to marry Jude.

Saddened and confused, but lovingly obedient, she convinces Jude to marry her and discovers a new and beautiful kind of love. They bear a son, John, who becomes a Jesuit priest and surgeon. Long after Jude dies, Mary-Margaret visits her son in Africa. It is there, thousands of miles from her home, that she learns the truth about her father and mother, and the union that brought her into the world.

There is something powerful about this book. Not powerful like an erupting volcano or a rocket launch, but more like a silent riptide flowing beneath still waters. It courses far deeper than the memories of Sister Mary-Margaret, using her story to bring the reader just a step or so nearer to Jesus. It adds a layer of depth to the phrase "inspirational fiction," for truly it inspires the reader to see people beyond who they appear to be --- maybe just a little more like the way God sees them.

I would expect nothing less from Lisa Samson, whose stories reflect an unwavering faith, a natural understanding of human nature and an uncanny ability to gently draw you in. She is downright gifted at painting a three-dimensional picture of her characters, easing you into their hearts and minds, thoughts, feelings, desires and shortcomings. I found myself thinking about THE PASSION OF MARY-MARGARET long after the last page was turned.

--- Reviewed by Susan Miura
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