Toibins Mary is nothing like youd expect, especially if your religious views run to the traditional. She doesnt think Jesus was the Son of God, that his death had any significance, and that the motley men surrounding him (her "keepers" now) are holy disciples. She also blames herself for abandoning her son on the Cross to save her own life. Toibin is one of the few authors I can imagine shaking Mary loose of two millennia of prayer, chant, and painting so that we can see her afresh.
Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, Colm Toibin'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. Toibin's tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.