Mentally ill. Demon possessed. Prostitute.
Mary Magdalene, by Ellen Gunderson Traylor, is a novel based on a woman who is all of those things. And a follower of Jesus too.
The historical Mary Magdalene is, in fact, one of the most famous followers of Jesus. It is no surprise, then, that she became the protagonist of one of Traylor's novelizations of a Bible character's life, since Traylor is a master of this niche genre, and a prolific writer. In Traylor's depiction, Mary is a wounded woman, and her brokenness is painfully evident in her mental state. Throughout the early stages of the novel, Mary is haunted by harrowing nightmares. When she is eventually healed of demon possession and mental illness by the Christ, her life turns around. It is a story of healing and hope.
Traylor's novel serves as an excellent reminder that redemption is never an easy process. Not only is it a long road to get threre, but also a long journey once the healing has begun. Perhaps that is why Mary Magdalene is such a famous follower of Jesus – she is a stark statement that Christianity is meant for the truly broken, that Christ's mission really was to seek and save the lost and hurting. In the time she lived, Mary would have been the ultimate outcast, a woman without choices, a woman oppressed by a hard, unforgiving culture. This is who Jesus sought out, who he healed, and who he called. And this is who responded to that call.
Traylor's representation of Mary Magdalene's life does an excellent job of drawing out this story of healing, and of hope.
Reviewed by Shelly Bryant © 2015