Friday, January 8, 2016

The Maiden of Nazareth (Scepter Publishers)

I don't normally read fiction, with the exception of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Every now and then, I will dive into some classics, historical fiction, or religious fiction, and today I want to tell you about a new religious fiction book I have recently read called The Maiden of Nazareth. Written by Javier Suarez-Guanes, an Opus Dei priest, this book combines elements of Scripture, tradition, and the author's imagination to weave a narrative of Mary's life.

The book begins with Joachim and Ana. We learn that Ana is aged and barren, like other notable women before her, i.e., Sarah and Hannah. However, it isn't long in the book before she experiences feelings of nauseousness and other pregnancy symptoms. She waits a few months to share the news, which is understandable given her age and probably high risk the pregnancy would be, but when she does inform others, they are all extremely happy for her. She eventually gives birth to a girl, whom they name Mary (Miriam), like Moses' sister.

The rest of the book takes us through the rest of her life all the way to her death and Assumption. I know the thought of Mary dying will upset some people who believe she was assumed into Heaven without experiencing death, but that is not what the ancient tradition teaches. In her life, we see her parents teaching her Scripture, her assisting in the Temple, and the role she in Jesus' ministry, both during Jesus' time on Earth and after. There is also a heavy focus on Joseph in this book, which is nice, because he surely was responsible in shaping the man Jesus became. In addition to Joseph, we see other Biblical figures, like Elizabeth, Cleophas, the Apostles, etc. Many are introduced before Jesus' ministry again, so it is like getting a glimpse of their lives before Jesus changed their lives forever.

The book has a nice pace and flow to it. You get a fair glimpse at what Mary's childhood could have been like, but it doesn't overly dwell on it. You can also see clear foreshadowing or references to Scripture in some of the things the author says. Two examples that most stand out in my mind are when she is memorizing Scripture, it says she remember them while other kids forgot them. This reminds of the passage where it talks about Mary treasuring all things and letting them dwell in her heart. The other most obvious one was her seeing a man about to be crucified. However, the author does a nice job of not glamorizing Mary's life. There are a few moments where it just spells out the mundane tasks of daily life and how it can be boring. Overall, I found this book to be an interesting read, and even if it was fictional it gave flesh to people in the Bible and made them feel more real.

This book was provided to me for free by Scepter Publishers in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!