Friday, May 5, 2017

Book Review: The Fisherman's Bride by Catherine Magia

First line: You only know of me through the healing of my mother, a shadow of a woman blessed by the miracle in the Gospels of Luke, Mark, and Matthew.

This slender book explores the life of the Apostle Peter's unnamed wife, and I found it a compelling, complicated, and surprising read.

As the first line explains, the only reference to her comes from the gospels, when Jesus heals her mother; from this simple line, Magia imagines what life for this unknown woman must have been like.

I didn't know what to expect with this novel; I enjoy fiction inspired by the events and figures in the Bible, even though I'm not a fan of explicitly Christian fiction. To my great delight, Magia balances an evocative sense of place and era with a gentle reverence for Jesus as a spiritual leader.

The novel opens with our heroine facing an unwanted marriage to a much older man, but her father's apprentice Simon asks for her hand, which she accepts. But as with everything in her life, this choice comes at a terrible cost -- the loss of her family when her father disowns her -- and she and Simon eke out a rough existence as he tries to establish his own fishing business. Impatient with Roman rule, Simon hungers for identity beyond that of fisherman, and when he and his wife stumble upon the itinerant preacher Jesus, they're both moved by his message.

I was most taken with Magia's depiction of life for our heroine once her husband left to follow Jesus. As possibly the only married disciple, Jesus and his other followers had little to consider as they traveled the country on their mission. On an intellectual level, I understood that they were often roaming, camping outside rather than living in homes with families, but Magia made vibrantly real what it might have been like for someone married to one of Jesus' followers. Our heroine faced terrible backlash for being an abandoned wife, and I couldn't help but be furious at Simon Peter's selfish lack of concern for her.

My only complaint is that I wished this was longer; some moments, especially those where our heroine is moved by Jesus' teachings, felt rushed, and I would have liked to linger more there. But I so enjoyed the way Magia wove in some of Jesus' sayings into our heroine's story, as if her plight inspired them, and I was touched by the way she gave voice to this forgotten, unnamed woman.

There appears to be a second volume forthcoming, which I'm looking forward to; this book stops just as Jesus' ministry has grown and gathered dangerous attention, following his attack on the merchants at the Temple.

For fans of books like The Red Tent or The Dovekeepers, this is a lovely historical novel that reflects the author's faith without sacrificing compelling character or plot.

Title: The Fisherman's Bride
Author: Catherine Magia

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Biblically Based / Middle East / Marriage / New Testament)
Publisher/Publication Date: Amazon Digital Services LLC, CreateSpace (11/2/2016)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

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