The Testament of Mary
By Colm Toibin
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781451688382, 96pp.)
Publication Date: November 13, 2012
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Coming in April 2013: A major one-woman Broadway show starring Fiona Shaw, directed by Deborah Warner, and produced by Scott Rudin. Colm Tóibín's provocative, haunting, and indelible portrait of Mary presents her as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity.
In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son’s crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel—her keepers, who provide her with food and shelter and visit her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was “worth it;” nor that the “group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye,” were holy disciples. Mary judges herself ruthlessly (she did not stay at the foot of the Cross until her son died—she fled, to save herself), and is equally harsh on her judgement of others. This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone. Tóibín’s tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.
Colm Tóibín was born in Ireland in 1955. He is the author of six novels, including The Blackwater Lightship; The Master, winner of a Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and Brooklyn, winner of a Costa Book Award. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York. His play The Testament of Mary, starring Fiona Shaw, directed by Deborah Warner, and produced by Scott Rudin, opens on Broadway April 29, 2013.
“Tóibín is at his lyrical best in The Testament of Mary, a beautiful and daring work…it takes its power from the surprises of its language, its almost shocking characterization, its austere refusal of consolation.”
“[An] exquisite novella…Tóibín gives a familiar story startling intimacy.”
“A heartfelt, powerful work.”
“Dramatic and poetic…A powerful, devastating story.”
“Lovely, understated and powerfully sad, The Testament of Mary finally gives the mother of Jesus a chance to speak. And, given that chance, she throws aside the blue veil of the Madonna to become wholly, gloriously human.”
“Mary—silent, obedient, observant—has echoed down two millennia, cementing a potent ideal in the Western imagination. Now the masterful Irish writer Colm Tóibín puts a jackhammer to the cozy, safe, Christmas-card version in The Testament of Mary.”
-Karen R. Long
“A slim, grave, exquisitely emotional book…The Testament of Mary is a spellbinding, surprisingly reverent book.”
“Tóibín applies a Joycean ruthlessness…Imagining himself into Mary’s interior life is his boldest jump yet.”
“Tóibín’s intimate approach make Mary feel more credible and human…The result, The Testament of Mary, feels true.”
“Tóibín suffuses the story with a sense of mystery and makes the reader feel (perhaps as never before) the tragedy of the crucifixion.”