cover image Ancient Rage

Ancient Rage

Mary Lee Wile. Larson Publications, $16 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-943914-70-1

In this startling double portrait of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, and her cousin, the Virgin Mary, Wile creates an unusual glimpse into the psyche of women at the time of Christ. Elizabeth and Mary each gave birth to a son who suffered a sacrificial death seemingly far beyond the comprehension of his mother. Wile picks up the women's story nine years after the death of John the Baptist, as the elderly Mary visits her even older cousin and persuades her to attend a gathering of the Followers, the first Christians. Reluctantly, Elizabeth agrees, only to be revolted by the commemorative consumption of bread and wine, perceived by the Followers as the body and blood of Jesus. What follows is a dialogue between the two women in which Elizabeth releases her pent-up anger and grief over her son's death, while Mary attempts to bring her cousin to a greater understanding of the role John played in the life of Jesus, and of the inevitability of God's will. Mary has accepted the unacceptable, but Elizabeth will not be comforted and can't forgive what she considers to be a betrayal by God. As she reviews her life with Mary, she sets forth a vivid picture of what it was like to be a wife and mother in biblical times. Wile isn't averse to sensationalizing her material (the novel begins: ""`What's it like to drink your son's blood,' asked Elizabeth''), but she eschews trite solutions and a pat ending. Her well-written, thought-provoking glimpse into the souls of two women is a significant contribution to the annals of biblical fiction. (July)