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Book Review: Two Women of Galilee - asking Mary to intercede

Media Review: I am reviewing some of the books and articles I have read, and videos and movies I have watched, as part of my research for my upcoming novel, which is set in the time of Jesus and his followers.

Two Women of Galilee: Joanna seeks healing by contacting Jesus' mother Mary

Author: Mary Rourke, a journalist who has written about religion and the arts, has master’s degrees in religion and art history. This is her first novel.

Published: 2006 by Mira

Genre: Historical fiction, Biblical fiction

229 pages + 4 pages of discussion questions

Easy to read story with an interesting premise. Main characters are Joanna, and Mary the mother of Jesus. Excellent description of the diverse society of Jesus’ day, the extravagance of Herod’s courts and Herod's indulgence to get what he wants at all costs. Also a good description of the poverty and the misfits in Jesus’ group of followers. I liked that the book demonstrated the cultural and historical restrictions on the women their activities and travels. I felt it was a reasonable assumption that Joanna was healed of consumption.

This novel shows Joanna and Mary travelling together, but not with Jesus, so very little of Jesus' teachings, miracles or parables are witnessed in the novel. These two do not spend time with the other women or men disciples. There is little mention of the other women followers. The author portrays all of the characters as fictional. The novel skirts tricky questions about Mary’s other children or her death and so it could be acceptable to both Catholics and Protestants.

Jesus is referred to primarily as Joanna’s healer, with a comment that it was dangerous for others to call him the Messiah, and dangerous to follow Jesus since Herod killed John the Baptist. Joanna is portrayed as believing in Roman gods, rather than the Jewish religion, until her healing. It develops the characters of Pilate and Claudia, Herod and Herodias, and Manaen and shows Joanna having personal relationships with them. There is good character development imagined for Joseph of Arimathea who gives insight to the Jewish leaders. The role of Nicodemus is ignored.

There is a murder plot is begun and is resolved in the middle of the book, with the main movement of the story being Joanna seeking Mary to intercede on her behalf, coming to have faith in Jesus, nourishing her new faith, and supporting him with accommodations. The novel shows many people giving gifts to Mary and asking her to intercede for them and speak to Jesus on their behalf. Joanna is portrayed as supporting Mary at the cross and resurrection. It indicates that Mary goes to Jerusalem knowing that her son will face his destiny there. The novel concludes with Joanna settling near Nazareth and becoming a caretaker of Mary’s home.

Themes: Jesus healing people; Roman extravagance; spiritual growth

Pro: historical and cultural descriptions

Con: Plot movement and character goals and motivations

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