In 1996 Paul Park published The Gospel of Corax, a highly acclaimed rendering of a theosophist legend, describing Jesus of Nazareth's journey to the Indian subcontinent and Tibet. In Three Marys, his new novel, Park returns to first-century Palestine to recreate with penetrating insight the historical community of Jesus, and to follow the first tangled strands of Christianity after his death. Here is Jesus's world as it very likely was, confused, conflicted, rife with messianic rumor and factional ambition; here is the brazen cruelty of Roman occupation and the domestic oppression that mirrored it, seen through the eyes of the women who knew Jesus best.
This is the story not only of Christ but of the three Marys who survived him and were true to him, each in their own way. Their inner and outer narratives, sometimes tortured, sometimes rhapsodic, make up the spare but radiant tapestry of this novel. There is Mary of Magdala, visionary and wandering, perhaps Jeshua's wife; there is his mother Mary, tough, charismatic, earthy, ultimately desolated by his loss; and there is Mary of Bethany, the girl who followed Jeshua in his last days and has to bear the burden of her undying brother Lazarus for decades afterwards. Outcasts because of their sex, yet possessors between them of some fragmented sense of the true ineffable nature of Christ the man and Christ the messiah, they are presented with luminous tragic humanity and given proper voice at last.
Paul Park is one of contemporary American literature's most subtle and original explorers of religious experience. As exotic in coloring and as rich in understanding as his superb science fantasy novels, Three Marys is a masterpiece of historical and spiritual reconstruction.