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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

Critic Reviews

*"....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 Ratings

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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.

31 of 34 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Telfair
  • Shepherdstown, WV, United States
  • 03-05-14

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.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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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.

11 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Darcy
  • United States
  • 02-21-14

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!

11 of 16 people found this review helpful

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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.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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For open minds who like to think

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

The Testament of Mary offers an unapologetic perspective that requires thoughtful insight on the listener's part. The mother of the human Jesus, in times of political upheaval and oppression, offers her thoughts and opinions. They are secret thoughts that would inconvenience society, the powers that be, and the powers that want to be. It is a darker story of an already dark story. I appreciated the non-committal nature and query offered by this story. It's one of those stories that one can ponder over for months.

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

When Mary dared to take a stand and speak out.

What about Meryl Streep’s performance did you like?

Everything, it was Meryl Streep, after all. Meryl Streep captured the nuances of human expression with well placed, sighs, pauses, tone of voice and character that only Meryl can.

Any additional comments?

A must for any theology, political science, or gender studies course.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Meryl Streep reads a totally different perspective

STORY (historical fiction) - I've listened to a couple of religion-oriented books lately. I'm not really sure why since that's not a genre I usually enjoy, but the fact that Meryl Streep is the narrator definitely had something to do with my decision. This story presents the Mother Mary in a totally different light than usual and it may be offensive to some, but I found it interesting and refreshing. Mary is a mother, just like you or me. She doesn't really like her son's friends (the disciples) and she doesn't believe he is the Son of God. You will feel her pain as she observes the crucifixion, and you will experience her deep regret that she didn't stay with her son till the very end, fearing for her own safety. Yeah, you guessed it, this book is very emotionally raw. The details of the crucifixion are difficult to hear. I rated the book a little low because of the "cringe factor" and also because it was a bit slow at times.

PERFORMANCE - Meryl Streep delivers, as always. She was the perfect choice to read this book. The emotion she injects into every sentence is palpable. I rated her performance a four, however, because it often sounds like she gets lost reading a sentence and then just tacks the rest of it on as an afterthought.

OVERALL - I would recommend this book for mature men and women who are in the mood for an emotional experience with some very difficult scenes. You must also be okay with hearing the Mother Mary presented as a flesh-and-blood woman with fears, faults, and who does not believe her son is our Savior.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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GO, MERYL!!!!!!

A few days ago, the narrator of this book, a person almost universally recognized to be America's greatest living thespian, was called an "overrated actress" by the most overrated individual this country has ever seen. He's wrong, of course, fortunately for Audible listeners; any project Meryl Streep undertakes immediately vaults into stratospheric heights that would be unimaginable with any other narrator. This is a tour de force performance, and I encourage EVERYONE (except children--it's too dark and scary for kids) to listen. Whether you are a believer or not (and Toibin's Mary isn't, and I'm not) is immaterial; this is a mother's story, a human story. I don't recommend simply reading the print version of the text, which would probably be a 3 1/2 star book on its own due to some crucial unanswered questions at the end. It's Meryl Streep's performance of this hours-long monologue that makes it worth a credit and then some. This isn't just a five-star performance; it's a ten-star performance that will make you gasp, cry, admire. I am still hearing it in my head and don't think I will ever forget it.

Special note: Listeners sensitive to violence may wish to fast-forward past the crucifixion scene. If you do, be careful and don't skip the whole chapter, which contains crucial information re: Mary's escape from that hill and her movements in the days and weeks to follow.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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A Different Point of View

Meryl reads this as a long poem. Her voice is magical. The story intrigued me. It makes me think of Mary as a woman in a culture and time when men paid little attention to their opinions or their truths. She was well aware that she was being ‘handled’ by Jesus’ disciples and nevertheless persisted in her truth.

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One of the Best

What made the experience of listening to The Testament of Mary the most enjoyable?

Meryl Streep reading this book was definitely a highlight.

What did you like best about this story?

The fact that Toibin reminds us that Mary was a mother, a wife and quite simply, a human being is something that will stay with me. I have recommended this book at least 10 times since reading it...twice!

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

Well, she is a truly amazing talent.

Who was the most memorable character of The Testament of Mary and why?

Mary

Any additional comments?

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