The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín’s latest book, The Testament of Mary, is a sad and bleak novella where Mary is presented as a very human and believable mother still trying to come to terms with the death of her son some twenty years earlier.

“They are too locked into their vast and insatiable needs and too dulled by the remnants of a terror we all felt then to have noticed that I remember everything.”

Lyrical

Fear and suspicion under the Roman occupation pervade the atmosphere but even more striking is the lyrical exploration of the relationship between dreams and reality, between states of awareness in life and death: “Maybe that is how the dead are, they are unaware, they do not miss the world or know what happens there.”

Ultimately, it is for the reader to decide where the dream ends and belief begins.

The Testament of Mary is one of several books to explore the story of birth of Christianity from new perspectives this year. Among the best of the crop is Naomi Alderman’s The Liar’s Gospel.

The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín is published by Viking. ISBN-10: 0670922099. ISBN-13: 978-0670922093

The Third Miracle : An ordinary man, a medical mystery and a trial of faith by Bill Briggs

If you have ever wondered about the process involved in making a saint, The Third Miracle is the book to read. Written by a journalist, it describes the steps involved from “living deeds” to “miracles” and from “miracles” to canonisation and sainthood.

In The Third Miracle Briggs recounts the process leading to the canonisation of Mother Theodore Guerin, a French nun who, in 1840, founded a convent in Indiana, USA — “a rustic Roman Catholic outpost in an ardently anti-Catholic country”. The process was to take well over 100 years picking up pace in 2001 following the miraculous healing of a Baptist handyman, Phil McCord.

Although a man of science, McCord was intrigued by faith — “I’m kind of a believer in spite of myself”, he says. And so when he has to face surgery on his eye, he surprises himself by looking for Mother Theodore’s intercession: “He would ask Mother Theodore Guerin for a moment of her attention and for a dose of her famed backwoods strength”.

He is more surprised than anyone when he is unexpectedly and inexplicably cured.  “If it was a miracle, McCord couldn’t fathom why he had been the recipient” — and it is his scepticism that makes him such a strong witness in securing the sainthood of Mother Theodore GuerIn.

The Third Miracle describes the Church’s investigation of the “miracle” and provides interesting insight into the mysterious and secretive process that goes to make a saint. Briggs has a very readable and accessible style which is well suited to the telling of the tale. Like the blurb says, this is part detective story and part courtroom drama. It picks up pace once the investigation gets underway. A nice add-on is that Briggs provides notes on his own research at the end of the book.

The Third Miracle: an ordinary man, a medical mystery and a trial of faith by Bill Briggs is published by Broadway Paperbacks. Isbn: 978076932714. A free review copy was provided by the publisher.