Everything changed with the fall of a sparrow. Mari of Magdala (known as Mary Magdalene today) had a strange childhood filled with visions she kept secret from everyone; starting with a talking sparrow. She tried ignoring them until plague took her parents and fiancé and she was forced to marry a controlling and cruel man. An Egyptian mystic teaches sees she has gifts and teaches her magic forbidden to Hebrews. This gives Mari power, but soon dark voices start to speak to her more and more. It is only when she meets Yeshua (Jesus) that she again hopes for a new future, one in which her gifts can be of service not harm.
This was a wonderful novel. Mari is an amazing character and her descent into madness is frightening as it is fascinating. Also interesting are the occasional chapters that tell the story of Matthew, a money-lender’s son (therefore looked down on in those times) that eventually becomes a disciple of Yeshua. Maybe the best part of the novel is Gormley’s take on Yeshua. He is a warm, funny, and wise character and we see him through Mari’s eyes. Mary Magdalene has always been a figure of mystery and controversy. Since the 6th century she has been considered a reformed prostitute by the church, but modern biblical scholars often disagree with this view. Many scholars now look at Mary as one of the most important women figures in the New Testament, so this book isn’t as controversial as it could look at first glance. It is always tricky to see representations of biblical figures in fiction, but Yeshua is wonderfully represented and I think would be liked by people regardless of their beliefs. I really think that this is a unique and intelligent work of Christian fiction that can be appreciated by readers of any faith.