McGowan, Kathleen. The Expected One. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.
Reviewed by Crosby
Remember Mary Magdalene? Well, she is in another book. The Magdalene cult has been very strong in Europe over the past two millennia. Now her presence is being felt in the United States.
Some, if they merely read the inside jacket, may think this book is a recycling of The DaVinci Code (2003). It does deal with the same subject matter: Mary Magdalene (MM) and it does deal with conspiracies and secrets and secret codes (MM does seem to lend herself to those; partly because, in the past, a person could be killed for aligning too closely to her supposed history and teachings). But there are many differences. For one, this one is not as suspenseful as the other book. In some ways, it is more like a travelogue of various places where the author visited. And there lies the major difference with the other books: it is really a disguised autobiography.
The first clue is in one of the dedications: “To Mary Magdalene, my muse, my ancestor”
The second clue is in the afterword: McGowan tells us that she did 20 years of research for this book, primarily via folklore because much of the information about MM is not written, but passed on from generation to generation of ancestors and followers. Books can be found and authors killed and the books edited and distorted. Folklore, according to the author, is more reliable and safer for the participants. And McGowan admits that her information was revealed to her only if she kept her sources secret (even today, and that may be because of the descendants of John the Baptist who are out to seek revenge on MM) so, since she cannot have independent confirmation of the data she chose to call this a fictional story so that she could at least get the story out there.
This book goes beyond the basic idea that MM and Yeshua (Jesus) had children. About 2/3 into the story is where the book becomes very fascinating: basically it is a rewrite of the gospel from the point of view of MM. It is very clever with realistic human interactions and explains a great deal that may have been confusing in the original gospels. It also has several surprises (one of which was referenced above: that John the Baptist—the voice in the wilderness, the eater of locusts and honey—had offspring and, um, guess who the mom is? And guess why the progeny of John hate the progeny of Yeshua . . . ?)
This book is the first in a trilogy. The second book is The Book of Love which is about the book written personally by Yeshua. There may be a bit of controversy over that also.
Stewart Library, Grinnell, Iowa--Main Floor