The Secret Magdalene
Although the daughter of a privileged affluent Jewish aristocrat, Mariamne is unable to overtly display her love of learning as females do not obtain a formal education. Thus, she secretly studies whatever she, her personal slave, Tata, or her father’s ward, Salome, can borrow books without anyone knowing. After becoming ill, she began hearing voices in her head that she assumed were prophecies even as she fully recovers from her ailment. When her father catches Salome alone with a young male guest and no escort, he becomes irate and tosses her out with nothing except the clothes that she is wearing. Though he has no evidence of violation except a nebulous guilt by association, he also accuses his daughter of the same outrageous behavior and exiles her to his brother-in-law’s house with an admonishment to never see Salome again. Instead Mariamne and Salome, dressed as men, run off to Alexandria, where they study in the library. Eventually Salome meets John the Baptizer while Mariamne finds herself attracted to Yeshu. The latter two share a love and the premonition of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Providing a female perspective to the birth, death and rebirth of Jesus, readers see a unique viewpoint from that of The Secret Magdalene. Mariamne and Salome are terrific protagonists, who, aside from a retelling of the major events in Jesus’ life, enable the audience to obtain a look at the restricted lifestyle of even a wealthy female in the Holy Land. Though the action is limited, readers who want to a wider feminist glimpse of the last days will want to read Ki Longfellow’s fascinating biblical tale.