Mary of Nazareth
By Jenny Robertson
Novalis 2001

Review by Gwen Nowak published in Catholic New Times, April 6 2003.

Jenny Robertson’s MARY OF NAZARETH is a chatty, engaging and unpretentious meditation on the mother of Jesus.

Unfortunately Robertson’s attempt to recover the historical Jewess named Miriam falls somewhat short: she names the mother of Jesus as either 'Mary' or 'Miriam' in a distractedly random and unresolved way throughout the book. She seems caught in a kind of optical illusion — the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing as one view, the historical Jewess named Miriam as another. Never do the two become one realized woman.

Given Robertson’s awareness that “no woman’s virtue” was safe during Herod’s reign, as well as her belief that God acts for good even in “messy” circumstances, alert readers might wonder why Robertson doesn’t question the dogma of the virginal conception of Jesus — was Miriam spared what her Jewish sisters endured? On the other hand, readers of a conservative bent will resist Robertson's determined dismissal of Catholicism’s dogma of Mary's perpetual virginity.

Robertson's rendering of Joseph as foster-father of Jesus is one of the most redeeming, challenging and unsentimental aspects of her book. Most readers could benefit from ‘meeting’ this Joseph, as well as engaging Robertson’s true grit insights on the spirituality of waiting and her down-to-earth reflections on the power of prayer.