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Mary of Nazareth: A Novel by [Halter, Marek]
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Mary of Nazareth: A Novel Kindle Edition

2.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harek, author of biblically-inspired novels such as Zipporah, Wife of Moses and Sarah, imagines the childhood and tumultuous young adulthood of Miriam (Mary) of Nazareth, mother of Jesus. Her loving parents Joachim and Hannah want to protect their daughter, but violence surrounds them as Herod's egregious taxation sparks Jewish insurrection. Miriam befriends a young revolutionary named Barabbas (yes, the same seditious Barabbas to be released more than three decades later instead of Jesus), and her world is upended by political uncertainty. In Halter's hands, Miriam is equal parts brazen temerity and quiet holiness, her deep courage an example to those who would submit to injustice, her scholarship unusual among women and her skill at healing remarkable. The novel offers brisk pacing and a good deal of adventure. Along the way, readers will learn a great deal of the ascetic Essene sect and the traditions and practices of first-century Judaism. And the novel's climax-the famous Annunciation-happens not out of the blue, but because a determined Miriam asks Yahweh to bring the Messiah and is blessed. In Halter's hands, Mary is not a passive receptacle of divine grace, but an active agent in changing the world.
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From Booklist

Halter, whose Canaan Trilogy dramatized the lives of Old Testament women Sarah, Zipporah, and Lilah, moves into New Testament territory with this novel about Mary. Although he always makes his characters his own, he takes Mary in a direction that borders on alternative history. This Mary is a feisty young woman, educated (she was schooled with the slightly younger Mary Magdalene) and so bold that she, along with her friend, the rebel Barabbas, stages a plot to remove her father from the Romans’ cross. Disgusted watching men like her father, Joseph, as well as Nicodemus and Barabbas, debate ways to topple the Romans, she wills herself to become the vessel for a savior. The story seems to end with the birth of Jesus, but then Halter adds a curious epilogue in which he claims to have received a Gospel of Mary from a mysterious Righteous Gentile. The text of the purported gospel continues the story, telling of an unwilling Jesus and an overbearing Mary. This odd device doesn’t quite work, but, nevertheless, the novel is an engaging and thought-provoking addition to the growing body of historical fiction on biblical women. --Ilene Cooper

Product Details

  • File Size: 713 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (April 8, 2008)
  • Publication Date: April 8, 2008
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0015DTUS4
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #930,976 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a very imaginative story about Mary, the mother of Jesus. The book helped me to grasp the desperation the Jews felt living under their local (Jewish) ruler,Herod, and how arbitrary & cruel life was for the Jewish nation under him. I can more readily understand how much they hoped for the foretold Messiah. I would have liked to see the list of researched materials the author used.

I gave this a low rating, however, because Marek Halter pulled a fast one at the end of the book. He added a realistic postscript which explains that an old Polish woman allegedly gave Halter, when he visited Warsaw, an ancient text supposedly written by Mary. In it, Mary testifies that Joseph of Arimathea gave Jesus a drug that only made him seem dead, for 3 days. And that Jesus walked away through a fault in the tomb. Then Halter provides another postscript which implies that the old Poilish woman's son, naturally named Jesus, died at Auschwitz, so we are left with the impression that it was all a misunderstanding on the author's part, or on our part, or on a bogus translation's part. Whatever.

I am quite upset with Mr. Halter because he broke trust with us, his readers. He brought us into the life of Mary, into a world he created,
then jerks us around with a denial of Jesus as the son of God because the central core of Christianity is Jesus's resurrection; not that Jesus performed miracles, not that Mary was a virgin, etc., but that Jesus rose from the dead. He is laughing at us via these bogus postscripts. No thank you, I will not entertain to read your books again!
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Format: Paperback
The imaginative account of Mary's everyday life as a Jew during a turburlent period of history drew me in and I could dispel disbelief in Mary's highly unlikely adventures with other biblical people, but as the story continued and became increasingly strange, I began to lose interest. But what really turned me off to this book was the absurdly unbelievable ending with the writer's finding of "The Gospel of Mary" in which she reveals that as her son was dying on the cross, the Roman executioner shoved a sponge saturated with a narcotic into his mouth (believing it was vinegar).

He appeared to die, but no, he had just been doped! His body was placed in the tomb which conveniently had a hidden entranceway in the back through which Mary entered and waited for him to wake up. She and a few of his followers stayed with him for 3 days after which he said it was time for him to go. NO DEATH, NO RESSURECTION. Jesus had just been doped and I had been duped.

Yes, it's just a novel, but when readers consider this book, they need to know that although it appears to be biblically based, it just uses Bible people as a takeoff point for what many will consider heresy and others will consider just plain weird.
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Format: Paperback
I have a hard time giving a Christian book a bad review, so to be honest up front, that's one of the reasons why this book is rated 3 stars, not 2.

I picked this book up to read at the library, because I enjoy reading fiction books about Biblical women (the Red Tent immediately comes to mind). I've never read a book by this author, & I was intrigued to read a book from a Jewish prospective - one that is slightly different from the Christian framepoint I was raised with.

I enjoyed the book until about the halfway point, when I started to get frustrated with how slowly the book was progressing & how far fetched Miriam's life was. Yes, it's fiction, so there is some poetic license here, but I just can't believe she really did & said half the stuff she was portrayed to have done (but it made for interesting reading, so that's OK). But I kept reading, because I was enjoying the reading - but now we're three quarters into the book, & she still hasn't gotten pregnant, you know, the part she's most famous for. All of a sudden, a few pages from the end, she announces she's pregnant & then she conveniently marries a man she knows, Yosef. And then the last chapter, the bit at the end -- well, let's just say it goes pretty much against what I was raised to believe. I don't know much about the Jewish faith, only the basics, so perhaps this section would make more sense to someone with more similar beliefs to the author.

I do give the book 3 stars, however, because I did enjoy the book, just didn't love it, the book was well written, & it gets points because of the interesting twists & turns the book takes.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was disappointed and frustrated by this book. In the end, I am not sure what story the author is trying to tell.

On the positive side, the story is well written and compelling, and keeps you engaged to the end of the book.

But I was left wondering, who is the Mary he is telling the story of? Is it Mary the Mother of Jesus? Some version of Mary with the character of a modern-day Jewish mother? or the Mary he met in Poland, who had rescued Jews from the Holocaust.

In historical terms, the story is contrived. The author brings together disparate actors from the gospels in a way that it lacks credibility. The story is clearly set up to demonstrate the possibility that Jesus survived the crucification, First, Mary rescues her father from the cross and then heals a boy with a spear wound. This is an unnecessary assault of Christian beliefs, when considering that the story focuses on Mary's preparation for the birth of Jesus. At the same time, the author goes to extraordinary lengths to preserve Mary's perpetual virginity (a belief that is hotly debated amongst Christians).

The so-called Gospel of Mary appended to the book is clearly made up and lacks any resonance with other writings of the time. Mostly notably it is written in the first person, which would have been considered a supremely arrogant form of speech in first century Palestine. It is disappointing that the author didn't use the real Gospel of Mary, which provides some wonderful support for aspects of the character he developed.

The view of Palestine seems out of sync with the Gospels. The Romans, and the tax collectors are just too oppressive. There is no hint of the uneasy accommodations that come through the Gospel accounts. Meanwhile, the Jewish society seems a little too perfect.
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