Little is known of Mary Magdalene other than the text from the New Testament. Now Margaret George has taken on the ambitious task of fleshing out the woman called "the other Mary" and giving us a provocative glimpse at Jesus and the apostles.

In this "biography," Mary is a normal child with a traditional middle-class family life until she begins to have troubling visions and appears to be possessed by demons. She is freed from this torment by the prophet Jesus. Once free, Mary must decide to return to her husband or follow the prophet.

We know who she chooses and the eventual friendship that forms between them. Jesus reveres Mary for her visions (the very thing others feared), and as she becomes his confidante, her visions give credence to the stories of the apostles and their prophetic abilities.

The rest of the novel continues with a more traditional approach to Mary's life, but is still an imaginative rendering of one of the four females important in Christ's life, who are often overlooked in the larger scheme of things.

George has been commended for her finely crafted and carefully researched biographies, and this novel is no different. Though far less is known of Mary than Cleopatra or the Queen of Scots, George depicts this historical figure's life and the biblical era with vivid descriptions and myriad details. This is the mark of a brilliant historian. SWEET (Dec., 700 pp., $28.95)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin