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The Testament of Mary | [Colm Toibin]

The Testament of Mary

Meryl Streep’s performance of Colm Tóibín's acclaimed portrait of Mary is hailed by the New York Times Book Review as “an ideal audiobook,” presenting the three-time Academy Award-winner in “yet another great role.” Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Colm Tóibín's The Testament of Mary presents Mary as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity. In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son's crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel. They are her keepers, providing her with food and shelter and visiting her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was "worth it"; nor that the "group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye," were holy disciples. This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone, in a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.
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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Finalist, Solo Narration - Female, 2014

Audie Award Finalist, Literary Fiction, 2014

Meryl Streep’s performance of Colm Tóibín's acclaimed portrait of Mary is hailed by the New York Times Book Review as “an ideal audiobook,” presenting the three-time Academy Award-winner in “yet another great role.” Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Colm Tóibín's The Testament of Mary presents Mary as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity. In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son's crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel. They are her keepers, providing her with food and shelter and visiting her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was "worth it"; nor that the "group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye," were holy disciples. This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone, in a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.

Now Meryl Streep brings Tóibín's tour de force of imagination and language to unforgettable life with “simplicity, honesty, [and] a clarity that draws us into the emotional landscape of the book through the beauty of the writing,” writes Charles Isherwood in the New York Times Book Review. “Streep has an impressive ability to crest the structurally intricate sentences Tóibín has fashioned, which sometimes have the flowing, rhythmic cadences of certain passages in the Bible itself,” Isherwood writes of her performance. “Streep’s voice is familiar to generations of moviegoers, but its beauty as an instrument can be appreciated in this context as it often cannot be in films. … Tóibín's exquisite book [is] rendered by Streep with all its detached, quiet, consoling humanity intact.”

©2012 Colm Toibin (P)2013 Simon and Schuster Audio

What the Critics Say

*"....beautiful and daring....Tóibín is at his lyrical best in The Testament of Mary....Originally performed as a one-woman show in Dublin, it takes its power from the surprises of its language, its almost shocking characterization, its austere refusal of consolation." (Mary Gordon, The New York Times Book Review)

"The Testament of Mary is sort of an ideal audiobook…. Streep's voice is familiar to generations of moviegoers, but its beauty as an instrument can be appreciated in this context as it often cannot be in films…. The result: simplicity, honesty, a clarity that draws us into the emotional landscape of the book through the beauty of the writing…. [O]ften there is a simmering intensity, as of overwhelming feeling held just barely in check. And there is, again, the sheer beauty of the voice, which has a cello-like resonance, slightly dark-timbered…. Streep rises to the heights of the most harrowing passages in the book with a stealth that takes you by surprise, so fluidly does she connect the subtle changes in feeling that overtake Mary as she tells of her confusion at what is happening, her fear when she hears that her son's death has been ordained, her horror at bearing witness to it." (Charles Isherwood, The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (270 )
5 star
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3.9 (243 )
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Story
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    C. Telfair Shepherdstown, WV, United States 03-05-14
    C. Telfair Shepherdstown, WV, United States 03-05-14 Member Since 2006

    Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!

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    "A living, breathing woman"

    There have been a lot of literary interpretations of other women from the Bible; Mary Magdalene, for example, has been reexamined and interpreted in many ways. But rarely has an author taken on the prospect of transforming the Holy Mother herself into a flesh and blood woman and mother. Our religious images are too imposing: the serene, sorrowful, and eternally loving and patient virgin and Saint.

    This is an exceptional performance of an impressive monologue. Meryl Streep's expressive, clear and powerful voice conveys what actually might be the thoughts and feelings of a mother in the circumstances in which Mary finds herself. She's an old woman now, weary and heartbroken still, sometimes questioning and untrusting, even angry. All that, and yet the qualities of her strength and honesty shine through.

    Some will of course be offended to see Mother Mary presented in this way, without the trappings of 2000+ years of religious teachings. I was very moved by Toibin's writing and Meryl Streep's interpretation. The "Testament" is brief, thought-provoking, and just about perfect in every way. This Mary is truly full of grace.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ana BALTIMORE, MD, United States 09-27-13
    ana BALTIMORE, MD, United States 09-27-13 Member Since 2011
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    "from a non believer..."

    A very touching, human account of an event that has no contemporary writers.
    Mary is a mother, above all. Her son is taken away from her, she has no power over him.
    His actions and companions get him in trouble with the law.
    Divine ?...Human ?...it doesn't matter. Her pain, regret and guilt are real.
    I'll listen to it again. It's so powerful.
    Meryl Streep deserves ten stars and more. She makes Mary talk directly to you as if sharing a cup of coffee.
    It didn't change my beliefs, but just the same, it gave me goose bumps.

    18 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    alice chicago ridge, IL, United States 10-21-13
    alice chicago ridge, IL, United States 10-21-13 Listener Since 2007
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    "Just Mom"

    Compelling and provocative,The Testament of Mary is a must read. Very emotional. Mary is full of the pain of doubt, regret, guilt and longing for the happy times of the past.
    Resentful of the men writing their version of her story, she tells us her truths.
    As I have always thought that because the Bible was written by man it couldn't be accurate, I loved this spin on man's interference.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Charlotte, VT, United States 09-14-13
    Kathleen Charlotte, VT, United States 09-14-13 Member Since 2011
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    "So real. I felt it was Mary speaking just to me."
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Testament of Mary to be better than the print version?

    Absolutely. Hearing Meryl Streep speak Mary's words made the book so much more believable. I could see the aged Mary as she spoke of her sorrow and coming demise.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Testament of Mary?

    Mary's story about when she held Jesus's body, after his death, was a terribly sad but powerful time. The Pieta lived.


    Have you listened to any of Meryl Streep’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have not heard other Meryl Streep book performances before.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I had a lot of emotional response but did not laugh or cry. I did keep telling my husband how wonderful it was to listen to it. I have since told friends to download the book.


    Any additional comments?

    Mary's story did not go the way I was taught it. But, as a mother, I can see why she thought what she thought about the many changes in her families life. As Jesus grew and changed, she failed to see and know her Son's Divine Powers. Doing so was not her purpose or her job. She was His mother and wanted only to keep Him safe, well and alive.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kimberlytere United States 03-11-14
    kimberlytere United States 03-11-14 Member Since 2011
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    "AMAZING!"
    What did you love best about The Testament of Mary?

    It was a mother's perspective of what happened. It gives you a totally different viewpoint of what happened to Jesus.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Testament of Mary?

    The part where she is in the crowd at the crucifixtion of Jesus and must decide whether to stay or go for her own personal safety.


    What about Meryl Streep’s performance did you like?

    Her voice has such depth and she played the part of a grieving mother so well.


    If you could rename The Testament of Mary, what would you call it?

    A Mother's Love


    Any additional comments?

    This is a wonderful, quick book well read by Merryl Streep. I loved it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darcy United States 02-21-14
    Darcy United States 02-21-14 Member Since 2013

    Voracious reader with MS. Audible awesome when cognitive fatigue hits. Literature, history, spirituality, psychology. Carpinteria, CA.

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    "Stunning Consideration of Historical Mythology"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This story and its brilliant narration is the raison d'etre for audible books. I have been listening to books, good, better, and worse for 6 months. Some have been enjoyable and thoughtful experiences: an informative historical fiction, a lyrical work of classic literature, or a moving biography that unveils a wounded soul . Others selections have been quite engaging -- a story that slings a wicked twist or a history that opens my mind to previously unknown event. But this story brings the very best of all these qualities to our ears. Colm Toibin's imaginal exploration of the memories of Mary, mother of Jesus, is nothing short of amazing. We experience the doubts and fears of the mother of a young man who is individuating into a new and dangerous future. Mary's confusion amid the chaos of the political upheaval and her disgust and rage against her "keepers" who are the shapers of history is palpable. Meryl Streep amazes as she delivers ordinary observations contained within extraordinary situations and hard and brutal truths perceived as any human soul might attempt to make meaning of circumstances out of her control. I highly recommend this audio book to one and all.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    This story is Mary's and she is the lens through which we view (and hear) the story of Jesus.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The wedding at Cano brings the naïve Mary into the fray where she witnesses the dynamic change in her son and the societal response to his new spiritual movement all the while beginning to glimpse the deadly danger it evokes.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    For me this occurred when Mary is witness to the crucifixion of her son, Jesus. Although she is in agony for his pain and hopes for some kind of magical intervention that will save him, she honestly admits fear about her own safety. Earlier she told us of the trauma of having seen a crucifixion and now we share her worst nightmare without vain glory or heroics. Only that damned caged eagle being fed live rabbits, people selling wares and grilling food, her son on the cross, and the primal instinct for personal survival.


    Any additional comments?

    Buy this book!

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pamela Dale Foster Sykesville, MD 06-07-14
    Pamela Dale Foster Sykesville, MD 06-07-14 Member Since 2010

    I listen to and have recently started to write reviews. I've found the reviews have helped me to select books.

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    "A True Woman"

    Mary's characterization is so real as done by Meryl Streep. The whole story becomes alive and real. I enjoyed reading about Mary as a woman with character, pride and determination. She took it upon herself to make the rules but allowing those those that kept watch over her to think that they had the upper hand. Mary does not believe that Jesus is the son of God. However, His conception that is alluded to, Mary does believe. I was listening and so glad to hear an empowered woman speak, Mary. She has become more than a mention in the Bible. Meryl Streep brought her alive. Mary has a personality that belongs to her. The book is a great listen. You'll like it, I'm sure.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan 07-27-14
    Susan 07-27-14 Member Since 2013
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    "beautifully written and performed."
    If you could sum up The Testament of Mary in three words, what would they be?

    Give me more please.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Testament of Mary?

    When Mary is witnessing her son's crucifixion.


    What about Meryl Streep’s performance did you like?

    I felt I was listening to Mary


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    joyce san clemente, CA, United States 06-26-14
    joyce san clemente, CA, United States 06-26-14 Member Since 2011

    Greedy, voracious reader since age five. After a number of eye injuries & surgeries, reading is hard. So now, I listen.

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    "Give Meryl Streep another Oscar for this!"

    This is the testament of Mary, the mother of Jesus, convincingly written by Toibin as a confused, sorrowing, outraged woman, a heartbroken widow and mother, who lives in exile, 'watched' by hostile agents and also watched over by her son's followers, but she can't always be sure who is which. She waits for death.
    The story goes back (briefly) to the happy days of Jesus' childhood, and through his tumultuous adolescence, when Jesus falls in with the bunch of misfits and 'twitchers' that Mary despises, and she begins to fear for his future. Then the 'miracles' start, and the Romans notice, and all hell breaks loose. Meryl Streep's narration is aching with sorrow and a mother's regrets, hoarse with mourning as she realizes that there was nothing she could have done to change her son or the course of events, but interspersed with such love and longing when she talks about their happy family times!
    I was incredibly moved by this book. The performance was perfection. And I am just in awe of the author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam G 06-22-14
    Sam G 06-22-14 Member Since 2009
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    "Great Performance of a Mediocre Work"
    Any additional comments?

    If I'd read the print version of this book, as opposed to listening to the audiobook, I'm not sure I'd have finished it. It's a book which, perhaps, the author needed to write in order to justify his own belief system. It's mildly interesting, but not particularly inspiring. I will not state whether or not this was a work of faith on the author's part, but it did nothing for my own faith. I admire some of the methods he used to write symbolically of how Mary has been imprisoned by the church and forced to be somebody she is (or was) not. I appreciate the psychological exploration of what might have gone through a mother's mind when her son died. But overall, I don't recommend the book itself. I do, however, recommend the performance. Streep is artful, sensitive, clear, and dramatic in her rendering of Toibin's words. The book may not have been inspired, but Meryl Streep's reading of it was.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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