In Daughter of Jerusalem, readers will quickly identify with Mary Magdalene – a woman of deep faith who used her wealth and influence to serve Jesus.
This fictionalized story of Mary Magdalene is, in the truest sense of the word, an inspirational novel for modern people who are looking to renew in themselves the message of Christ. It’s the greatest story ever lived, told by one of the most famous women who ever lived, and it’s a page-turner. Joan Wolf’s years of success as a novelist enable her to combine storytelling and a faith plot in this beautifully written biblical fiction.
If you are looking for a theological analysis of Daughter of Jerusalem, this review is not it. I have expressed my reservations about taking liberties with biblical accounts and truth in the past (coincidentally discussing another of Joan Wolf’s novels) and do not wish to regurgitate my views it yet another review. On the topic of theology and historical accuracy I will only say this: Is it impossible that Mary Magdalene and Mary, sister of Lazarus, were the same person? No. Is it likely? No. Was it necessary to merge the two personas to form a more impacting character? No. Each woman (as I personally believe, based on my biblical interpretation, that they are two different women) is powerful in their own right with a unique purpose and voice. Such a controversial synthesis compromises the integrity and theme of their stories.
The tone and dialogue did not suit the period nor the setting of the story; in fact, at times it felt almost pedestrian in its accounts of interactions with Jesus, listing his miracles and ministry like a citation of accomplishments. Sentence structure was uniformly simplistic and resulted in a choppy flow. Even though the story is recounted through first person narrative, I never felt like I was inside Mary’s character. The approach was much more one of a show and tell versus feeling through and with the character. Albeit not a biblically reliable tome, Daughter of Jerusalem does have some virtues. Where it deviates historically it compensates with a universally understood message of forgiveness and redemption.
One reason why I continuously come back to biblical fiction-in spite of the risk that I may not agree with the direction the author takes- is that it encourages me to take a different approach in my personal bible reading. The historian in me loves the investigative nature my devotions take and it feels like I am looking at the scripture with a fresh pair of eyes and renewed sense of purpose. Regardless of how I may feel about the execution of the story, I can never fault an author for pushing me to dig deeper and become engaged with the Bible as a living text. It is a reminder that we can not rely on others to tell us what the Bible says and means-we have to discover it for ourselves in the personal way it was intended.
2 Timothy 3:16-17: 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
**Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley**