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.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.