The Testament of Mary, read by Meryl Streep

by on May 15th, 2015
The Testament of Mary, read by Meryl Streep Cover Image

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin is a fictionalized account of Mary, mother of Jesus, in her old age.  This well-reviewed novella was published in 2012 and shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.  I did not read it at the time, but recently checked out the audio version read by Meryl Streep.  It is a fantastic reading, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys listening to books on disc.

Toibin’s novella has Mary being coaxed by the disciples to share the story of her son’s rise in popularity and power, and then his crucifixion.  The disciples have a larger message they want to impart to the world and facts that do not fit that message are conveniently ignored; Mary’s memories are those of a mother who has no agenda other than to raise and love her son.  The clash between the two purposes creates impatience in the disciples and anger in Mary.

Meryl Streep brilliantly expresses the confusion, anger and grief Mary feels as she watches the sacrifice of her son’s life and the manipulation of the story in the years that followed.  Streep delivers Mary’s short and clipped sentences, and bits of sarcasm directed at the disciples, in a way that is fitting to a woman who has little time left to tell her side of the story to an unsympathetic audience.  Streep captures the weariness of the old Mary, still trying to make sense of what happened.

This story is not the Mary in popularly-known Christian theology.  But if you are open to a different interpretation of her, Meryl Streep brings to life an intelligent, strong, flawed and believable Mary whose grief at the loss of her son is inconsolable.

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