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The Secret Magdalene: A Novel Hardcover – March 27, 2007
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
From Publishers Weekly
Vermont novelist Longfellow (China Blues; Chasing Women) places Mary Magdalene at the center of the origin of Christian thought. As this vividly imagined novel opens, "Mariamne," the daughter of a wealthy Jewish aristocrat, is a gifted child with a love of learning who hears prophetic voices. Because privileged girls in Jerusalem are not raised to be scholars, Mariamne must indulge her passion in secret, accompanied by her slave, Tata, and her father's ward, Salome. Mariamne and Salome eventually run away to Alexandria, where they study in the great library, and into the wilderness, where Salome devotes herself to John the Baptizer. Meanwhile, Mariamne is drawn to Yeshu (Jesus), with whom she shares a brief earthly love and prolonged discussions of gnosis—the experience of direct personal insight into the divine. Together, they envision the events that lead to the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Reimagining such famous episodes as the healing of Lazarus, the wedding at Cana and Judas's betrayal, Longfellow sees Yeshu and his apostles from a feminist perspective. Longfellow (who first published this novel in 2005 at a small startup press named for Mariamne's donkey, Eio) is more passionate about research and philosophy than plot or character. Readers looking for a fast-paced thriller will be disappointed. (Mar.)
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“Highly original and highly engaging, The Secret Magdalene is a sweeping yet intimate tale, an emotional and intellectual journey that questions everything, including the real nature of Jesus.” –India Edghill, author of Wisdom’s Daughter
“In The Secret Magdalene Ki Longfellow portrays Jesus and Mary Magdalene of the Gnostic Gospel tradition-two great teachers whose friendship blossoms within the political turmoil of first century Palestine. What The DaVinci Code only hinted at, Longfellow brings to life.” –Rebecca Kohn, author of The Gilded Chamber
“Imaginative, well-researched, and full of profound wisdom, this wonderful novel brings the ancient world to life.” –Timothy Freke, co author of The Laughing Jesus
“Superb characterization, a brilliant visual palette, and thorough scholarship. One feels the stone streets of Jerusalem, breathes the air by the stinking salt sea . . . Ki Longfellow’s Mariamne will no doubt eclipse all other representations of Mary Magdalene for some time. The Secret Magdalene is both heartbreaking and inspiring.” –Earl Doherty, author of The Jesus Puzzle
“A beautifully written book, immaculately researched. It moved me to tears . . . I felt if this is not how it was, it is certainly how it should have been.” –BookCrossing.com
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Mariamne, eventually to be called Magdal-eder, or She of the Temple
Tower), this book begins when Mariamne is still a child in the home of
her prosperous Jewish father, a glass merchant. Her mother dead, her
only friend a ward of her father's called Salome (an Egyptian raised in
Jerusalem), and her only confidante a fierce body slave named Tata,
Mariamne is highly intelligent, always curious, and desperate for
knowledge. Along with Salome, a child of wit, insight, and cruelty,
Mariamne finds herself banned from her privileged home and dependent on
the care and concern of a mysterious man called Seth. Eventually all
three find themselves living for seven years in the Great Library of
This is an immensely inventive book, a book that turns the known and not
so known gospels on their heads, revealing meaning in them virtually
unique in my experience. To have a familiar story turned inside out is
to view it so differently that the meaning we think we know, becomes
Through Salome we meet a John the Baptist who is both sly and childlike,
wise and brash, a loveable frightening man, willing to lose his life to
save his chosen people. Through Mariamne we meet Jesus. This Jesus,
known to her as Yeshu, is deeply complex, driven, a man of his times,
and yet a man for all times. Raised as zealous for the Law, yet he is a
man tortured by "visions," called on by a god who speaks so completely
at odds from the jealous angry violent god he has been taught to follow,
that his torment almost breaks him. Only by meeting Mariamne through
their mutual friend Seth, does he slowly and painfully come to terms
with the harsh demands of a simple man called on to be more than any
man. He is the hero, reluctant, in constant hope of escaping his
destiny, yet ultimately bowing to the inevitable, at which point he
fulfills his "destiny" with a triumph of will almost unbearable in the
implications of its choice...for he has a choice and by choosing it,
rather than turning away, he uplifts our souls.
And all the while we follow Mariamne as witness, as student, as teacher,
as philosopher, as companion, as a woman perhaps unique in literature.
She is not merely a disciple or a witness. She too is gifted with vision
and she too struggles with "knowing" god. But in the mouth of Mariamne
Magdal-eder we learn it is not "a god," a being, something outside the
self, it is perfect love and inherent divinity that seeks us and whom we
As for Judas...this Judas is almost more a hero than any other in this
extraordinary tale of tales. A double of his brother Jesus, a boon
companion, Judas does what is needed when it is needed, sealing his fate
for all time as betrayer, yet without him Jesus could not become the
Mariamne's voice is a voice to be heard. It speaks to us with a clear
ring of human honesty and doubt but also with a voice beyond our normal
voice, that of a visionary making thrilling sense of reality in
unforgettable sentences replete with the meaning we all seek.
Amazing Balanced Christian Dramatic Egyptian Faithful Gnostic Historic Inspired Jewish Knowing Loving Moving Natural Original Profound Questing Romantic Shocking Tragic Unique Visionary
+++ Quoted from the back cover +++
"A powerful evocation of a Mary Magdalene who was in her own right a philosopher, a traveler, a teacher, and a prophet. This Magdalene was more than a favored follower, more even than the Beloved Disciple. Mariamne Magdal-eder 'knew the All'. KNOWING THE ALL is the heart of the Christ's original Gnostic teaching. It was the Apostle Paul's 'revelation of the Lord' that blinded him on the way to 'Damascus'. It was the very heart of early Christianity. Still beating, Gnosis or 'knowing' was cut from the body of the Church more than sixteen hundred years ago. But with the discovery in 1945 of the Nag Hammadi codices, perhaps the last of their kind, both Gnosis and the Magdalene have returned to us...offering Wisdom and Hope in these confused and troubling times. The Secret Magdalene is not only a painstakingly researched portrait of a great woman who was wise beyond her time and place, it is a portrait of the search for GNOSIS...the individual's direct experience of God."