Monday, December 30, 2002

My Name is Mary: The Story of the Mother of Jesus by Denise Sawyer


Still Waters Publishers, 097142764X, $12.95



As a writer, I personally would never presume to write a fictional account of biblical events in the first person narrative style. Who am I to attempt a recreation of the greatest and most important events in Christian history as seen perhaps through the eyes of an apostle, much less the Mother of God? Who am I to put words in such mouths, even from a fictional viewpoint? While it's not something I consider sacreligious, I feel that few, if any, could tell the story as well as the authors of the Gospels.



To read a book about Mary, as told by Mary, can either be an exercise in exasperation or enjoyment, depending on your beliefs. It was with some skepticism, I admit, that I picked up Denise Sawyer's My Name is Mary, a slim gift book-sized tale of the earthly life of Christ as seen through the eyes of His mother. Sawyer, a recent convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, acknowledges in her introduction that exposure to Mary was sparse while growing up in a mainline Protestant church. It was not until joining her current church that she became aware of the Orthodox (and Catholic) devotions to the Blessed Virgin, devotions often ignored and/or misunderstood by evangelicals. The idea for Mary, Sawyer writes, came during an Easter meditation as a question came to mind that many a Christian has no doubt asked at one time or another: what would it have been like to have seen the events in Christ's life.



Mary is an effective, dialogue-free retelling of the major events in the Gospels, inspirational in its simplicity and to the point. "My name is Mary," she says, as if addressing an audience. "In the years to come, I fear that I will become almost a myth to some or perhaps to others of little importance in these events." To Sawyer's credit, Mary is written as many would likely see her - a modest woman, aware of her role and always yielding to the accomplishments and words of her Son. Sawyer's style evokes a brief yet interesting view of these times.



The major events of Christ's life as depicted in the Gospels comprise the backbone of the story; through Mary's point of view the reader relives Christ's birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection with the added emotion only a mother could share. As Mary speaks of her Son growing up among friends and under the tutelage of Joseph it does satisfy a desire to know more of Jesus's life as a youth, as well as the daily life of the Holy Family. Points of debate (among them Mary's perpetual virginity and Christ's "brothers and sisters") are also touched upon here in a manner no Christian - Catholic, Orthodox, or otherwise - would find offensive.



Despite the titular credit, Mary insists Christ is the main character in the book and in our lives, as He was in hers. As a work of fiction based upon Truth, My Name is Mary is a touching tribute to a woman who definitely should never be forgotten.

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