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Girl Mary a novel by Petru Popescu

PETRU POPESCU was one of Romania’s leading young authors when he immigrated to the United States in 1974. He is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Amazon Beaming and Almost Adam, and the critically acclaimed memoirs The Return and The Oasis. Petru lives in Beverly Hills with his wife and two children.

“Girl Mary brings the people and settings of Biblical antiquity to life with compassion, vivid storytelling, and an unerring eye for the Rightness of the world’s greatest story. It will speak to anyone who cherishes the essential humanity of our foundational spiritual traditions.”
—Deepak Chopra

“…[Popescu] brings this turbulent age to vibrant life with sympathetic characters, both minor and major.” —Kirkus Reviews

For nearly two millennia, Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus, has been one of the most revered women in history, yet she remains one of the most mysterious. In GIRL MARY: A Novel (Simon & Schuster; September 8, 2009; paperback original; $15.00), New York Times bestselling author Petru Popescu offers a radical, yet fully realized portrait of Mary’s girlhood, her love for Joseph, her relationship with God and the events that led to God’s intervention in her pregnancy.
Combining his scrupulous research of Jewish and Roman life at the time of Herod and Caesar Augustus with his knowledge of biblical writings, Popescu brings his characters, their culture, and their desert homeland to life with remarkable authenticity. His Mary is a devoted and dutiful daughter, strong-willed yet innocent, and so beguiling that she enchants virtually everyone she encounters. Popescu’s Mary explosively redefines the icon created by medieval and renaissance painters; Popescu reimagines Mary as a living, breathing, thinking sexual being whose fears and longings he explores with sensitivity and compassion.
When we meet the teenage Mary, she, her family, and their tribe have set up camp in the harsh Judaean desert, having been banished from Nazareth three years earlier by King Herod. On the long, arduous journey through the desert sands, Mary had discovered a never-before-seen well—a hidden oasis that her people believed to be God’s work. With the help of passing caravans that trade seeds for water, the exiled Jews cultivated the once-barren land surrounding this miraculous well and learned how to thrive even in an inhospitable landscape.
Now, three years into the Jews’ banishment, Herod rescinds his edict and, swayed by a young emissary of Caesar, allows this young man—Pontius Pilate—to lead them back to Nazareth. Pilate is a young Roman soldier whose life once hung in the balance after his failed attempt to assassinate Caesar. But the resourceful Pilate saved his own life by proclaiming the emperor’s divinity, and his resourcefulness and “vision” won him a special job as Caesar’s emissary. Caesar sends Pilate to Judaea as a spy; his mission is to find a miracle, a mystical sign proving Caesar’s divinity, from among the Jews—a people living on the fringe of the Empire, little understood by Rome, who nevertheless attract curiosity with their spirituality and mysticism. If there is a miracle to be found, it will be among these people—and Pilate must bring it to light to solidify Caesar’s grip on the empire.
Having convinced Herod to end the Jews’ exile as per Caesar’s wish, Pilate sets out to restore the Jews to their home in Nazareth. While on his quest to retrieve the Jews from exile, he meets Mary—and is immediately struck by her formidable presence despite her youth. Sexual sparks fly immediately between Mary and the Roman, but Mary, protecting her virginity and desperately in love with Joseph, whom she has not seen for three years, still dreams of being reunited with him some day.
Mary was only fourteen when she and Joseph met and fell in love, but because Joseph was a bondman and not legally entitled to marry, Mary’s parents refused to sanction the marriage. Now, Mary learns, he is a successful stone carver no longer held in bond and is about to marry two girls from Nazareth’s richest clans.
Heartsick over her lost love, Mary leaves the encampment one night and makes her way to Mount Barak, where she hopes to find Joseph. Instead, she meets God in the form of a shepherd, and in a moment of grief and rage, rails against Him for His seeming indifference to the brutalities He witnesses and the inequities He allows to flourish. She reminds Him of the child bride she witnessed being stoned to death; of women having to bear children in pain and being treated as second class citizens; of her love for Joseph and her fears that she will never have his child.
Saddened by Mary’s anguish, God reveals His own loneliness, admits He had no model on which to create the first woman and regrets His failed attempts at saving the lives of innocents. He confesses His love for Mary and promises her that she will be reunited with Joseph and bear a child. But is Mary dreaming all this or did God indeed reveal Himself?
The encounter on the mountain strengthens Mary’s comprehension of her worth as a woman, and when Joseph proposes to her, she rejects the conventional marriage in which she would become Joseph’s property and he could divorce her without cause. Joseph agrees that her demands of equality be written into the marriage contract. Love seems to emerge triumphant. But then Herod’s men attack the tribe; the survivors, including Mary and Joseph, must flee for their lives, and Mary’s will for love is tested one more time. In a stunning final scene, God shows His presence once more, giving Mary the status of a new Eve, reshaping womanhood and changing the course of histoy.
Blake Bailey praises GIRL MARY for its “deep research and masterful story-telling” calling it “triumphant” and “unforgettable,” and Elie Wiesel proclaims that “Popescu’s literary imagination will stimulate reader’s interest in religious and historical events.” Popescu has written a hauntingly beautiful novel that brings to life one of history’s most mysterious and honored women as an enthralling, complicated, and utterly believable girl in love.
More Praise for Petru Popescu’s Girl Mary
“A powerful book, in which history, legend and the contemporary world merge in the best tradition of Mikhail Bulgakov.”
—Radu Ioanid, author of The Ransom of the Jews

“A moving, vivid and psychologically astute look at the events leading up to the birth of Jesus…. This book is a triumph.”
—Dennis Palumbo, author of Writing From the Inside Out

“A remarkable and compelling novel . . . . Popescu has given us a Mary with an earthy and sensual presence . . . . A marvelous and inspired read.”
—Dr. Jeffrey S. Siker, Chair of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University

By Petru Popescu
A Simon & Schuster Trade Paperback Original
Publication date: September 8, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4165-3263-7
Price $15.00

Presse Release    9/1/2009


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