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Girl Mary: A Novel Paperback – September 8, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Another entry into the popular biblical-figures-are-just-like-us genre, Popescu's chronicle looks at the life of the Virgin Mary. A hard-working Jewish teenager expelled from Nazareth with her struggling tribe, Mary has become infatuated with a visiting Roman soldier, the handsome Apella (who is, unbeknownst to Mary, Pontius Pilate, a spy for King Herod). Traveling with her rabbi-carpenter father to an artisans' fair, Mary meets a woodcarver named Joseph and is mesmerized. Confused, she journeys alone to the mountain where Joseph lost his family, seeking the counsel of God. Told in flashbacks from Mary and Pontius Pilate's viewpoint, the narrative can be hard to follow for readers without a knowledge of biblical history, though the language is of the modern-but-stilted variety, old-fashioned–sounding but easy to understand. Pocked with prurient details, such as a physician who specializes in lengthening the penis and old women employed to manually verify the virginity of brides-to-be, Romanian author Popescu isn't afraid to examine the violence and profanity of the Bible, but her tale's appeal may be limited to the devout. (Sept.)
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"[Popescu] brings this turbulent age to vibrant life with sympathetic characters, both minor and major." -- Kirkus
"Girl Mary brings the people and settings of Biblical antiquity to life with compassion, vivid storytelling, and an unerring eye for the Rightness of the world's greatest story. It will speak to anyone who cherishes the essential humanity of our foundational spiritual traditions." -- Deepak Chopra
"In this novel Petru Popescu's literary imagination will stimulate the reader's interest in religious and historical events." -- Elie Wiesel, author of Night
"With deep research and masterful storytelling, Petru Popescu brings the worlds of Augustan Rome and Judea to triumphant life. Mary is an exquisitely nuanced creation: scrappy, inquisitive, lovable...An unforgettable story." -- Blake Bailey, author of Cheever: A Life
"A powerful book, in which history, legend, and the contemporary world merge in the best tradition of Mikhail Bulgakov." -- Radu Ioanid, author of The Ransom of the Jews
"Petru Popescu has written a remarkable and compelling novel about one of the most enigmatic and revered figures in history.... Popescu has given us a Mary with an earthy and sensual presence.... A marvelous and inspired read." -- Dr. Jeffrey S. Siker, Chair of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University
"How thrilling to meet this enigmatic religious icon face to face, to experience her power, simplicity, honesty, devotion, and courage, her moments of fear.... This Mary is feisty, strong willed, passionate and very much in love. How bold!" -- Barbara Dana, author of Young Joan and A Voice of Her Own: Becoming Emily Dickinson
"Petru Popescu provides a moving, vivid and psychologically astute look at the events leading up to the birth of Jesus.... This book is a triumph." -- Dennis Palumbo, author of Writing From the Inside Out
"A deeply moving, lyrical novel...Popescu's deep scholarship adds authenticity to his description of life in first century Palestine, and his vivid portrayals of biblical figures such as Pontius Pilate, Herod and Joseph echo with the ring of historical truth." -- Kamran Pasha, author of Mother of the Believers
"[Popescu] is a storyteller of the highest order. Girl Mary speaks of faith and love with insight, affection and humor." -- Caldecott Chubb, producer, Eve's Bayou
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Pontius Pilate is ordered by the Emperor of Rome to be a spy in Judah. He is to find a way for Agustus to become a deity. Pilate is fascinated by the Jewish people. He hears their legends, and when he finds that the tribe that is supposed to have the messiah has been banished by King Herod, he finds them and helps them to come back to Nazarath.
Mary is very spiritual. She sees and talks to God. She is also assertive, which is very unusual for a girl in those days. This is a love story between Mary and Joseph, with a little flirtation between Mary and Pilate.
I liked the characterization of Mary speaking with God. She has a very human-like relationship with him. She bargains with him to get her way, but is respectful of the fact that He is God.
But be warned that this isn't the traditional Mary and Joseph story. It is very different. I liked how the author saw Mary and how he saw Joseph. I also learned a lot about the lives of women during those times. In my head I can realize that it was very hard to be a woman in those days, but how hard I don't think I could ever know unless I lived it. This story focused a lot on the life of Jewish and some on the life of Roman women. It will open your eyes about how wretched their lives were.
The details about ordinary life throughout GIRL MARY were extraordinary. I could envision how hard people worked and what they felt. I was truly amazed, and I feel you would be too, if you give this book a try.
Reviewed by: Marta Morrison
Otherwise the book is a PCPF product: politically correct pulp fiction, mediocrity cashing in on feminism and the vogue of titillating Gospel deconstruction. False characters, poor writing. Religious soft porn has the advantage that the writer does not have to work hard on sex scenes: the very idea of Mary in love and in carnal temptation is by itself stimulating enough through its taboo resonance.
In his youth PP did better; that's my excuse for reading it. PP should consider trying his hand at Islam next: it's hot, possibly hotter, and it sells.
One of the large issues I have with this book is that according to Jewish and Christian tradition, God had stopped speaking to the Jewish people up until right before the birth of Christ. Yet Mary speaks to Him and receives answers. The most preposterous vision comes when Mary is alone on the hill where Joseph lost his father and his ability to father children and Mary walks with God in the Garden of Eden as Eve to Joseph's Adam. And that led to another preposterous happening - Mary controlling the lightning and killing those who killed her best friend.
There are ways to take liberties with the text and not come off as stupid (Lamb by Christopher Moore springs to mind) and this book is not one of them. Which is sad, since I love Popescu's other work, Almost Adam, so much. I had high hopes for this book, and instead it was all sort of meh.
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