Monday, June 30, 2003

Joseph and Mary: a Love Story by N. Ashton Walker


Fingerprint Press, 0971119929, $12.99



To review a fictional work based upon the life of Christ is always a tricky prospect, particularly when one must consider the audience to whom one is recommending the book. The premise of Joseph and Mary, a fictional account of the marriage of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, is intriguing, then again what Christian would not find the story of Holy Family so? It is a timeless tale, peppered with adventure and mystery, and ultimately leads to a happy ending for all.



Author Walker's account is somewhat modernized. Here Mary lives in an apartment and converses over the phone with her cousin Elizabeth, who calls her "girl." Mary's speech, too, is colloquial. She wears jeans and T-shirts and watches television, and she is in love with Joseph but afraid at first to tell him that she has conceived of the Holy Spirit. In keeping with the Gospel story, Joseph is taken aback, yet a Heavenly visit assures Joseph of his role in the Holy Family. He takes Mary as his wife and raises Jesus as his own, taking in stride "miracles" performed in the schoolyard and Jesus's blunt revelation of the end of Joseph's mortal life.



As a story taken out of its intended context, Joseph and Mary reads as a touching story of devotion between two people who love God and each other. As accurate biblical fiction...this is the tricky part. Some readers will find Joseph and Mary problematic, as Mary is portrayed as having more children (all of whom are practically surrendered to the background of the story). Catholics and Evangelicals have argued for centuries over whether or not Joseph and Mary ever consummated their earthly relationship and expanded the family. Being Catholic, I accept the doctrine of Mary's perputal virginity (see the article "Mary: Ever Virgin" by Catholic Answers), though I recognize that these reviews are often visited by those whose beliefs are not the same as mine. I don't fault others what they believe of Mary having other children, and it is my hope nobody faults mine, yet for me to recommend this book would be impossible.



Therefore, I leave the verdict of Joseph and Mary to the reading public. If you feel so inclined to explore the themes of this book, do so with a prayerful heart. The idea of fictionalizing the story of the Holy Family should not be discouraged, but like actual interpretation of the Bible itself not everybody is destined to agree.

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