New Mary Magdalen Novel Champions those the Church Left Behind

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Monkfish Book Publishing Company is proud to announce the release of the long awaited THE PASSION OF MARY MAGDALEN; A NOVEL (in bookstores April 2006) by acclaimed author Elizabeth Cunningham.

Monkfish Book Publishing Company is proud to announce the release of the long awaited THE PASSION OF MARY MAGDALEN; A NOVEL (in bookstores April 2006) by acclaimed author Elizabeth Cunningham. The book is the central novel of the trilogy THE MAEVE CHRONICLES about Mary Magdalen. The biblical character, who appears only briefly in the Gospels, is currently at the center of international media attention due to recent findings of biblical scholars and to the best-selling novel and movie THE DA VINCI CODE. The book has drawn criticism from religious leaders on the Christian right and from the Papacy who opposes many of the novel’s ideas regarding Mary Magdalen and her relationship to Jesus Christ. Recent scholarship points to the possibility that Magdalen was one of Jesus’ key disciples — possibly his wife — and that her role and influence in early Christianity were expunged from the canonical Gospels and official Church history.

THE PASSION OF MARY MAGDALEN gives readers the chance to meet the Gospels most provocative woman face to face. In Cunningham’s historical fantasy, Mary Magdalen, or Maeve, is the divine, if at times irreverent, counterpart of Jesus in female form. She and Jesus are cast as star-crossed lovers whose lives are tragically interwoven by destiny. As perhaps befitting today’s religion torn world, theirs is an interfaith union, Jesus dedicated to the one true God of Israel, while Maeve remains true to her Celtic and pagan heritage. From this premise Cunningham radically re-imagines Magdalen’s life, her beloved Jesus, and her influence both within and outside the Church. Included is a dramatic retelling of many parts of the Gospels and a historically vivid portrait of Rome and Israel at the time of Christ. Her Magdalen champions "outsiders" — women, homosexuals, pagans, prostitutes — as some believe Jesus did. Cunningham celebrates this theology of inclusiveness, and reminds us: everyone is invited to the feast.

Ms. Cunningham, who is descended from nine generations of Episcopal priests and the author of four previous novels, spent fifteen years researching and writing the trilogy including travels to Israel, Rome and the British Isles. The characters in the book are based either on people found in history books or in the Gospels themselves. Though she makes no claims to historicity, everything in the book could have happened. “As a novelist,” says Cunningham, “it is not my intention to set forth a new theory about Mary Magdalen, but to tell a transporting, transformative story about a dynamic woman, who like her beloved Jesus, mediates the human and divine.”

Cunningham’s PASSION has won early support with reviewers and bookstores. Publishers Weekly featured its provocative cover in their Spring Religion 2006 Announcements. Booklist gave it their coveted “starred review” in February; “Magdalen fans are in for more surprises in Cunningham’s classy, sexy novel…this will be - besides snapped up by Magdalene fans, Celtophiles, feminists, and lovers of a good yarn — controversial. Those unready for lesbianism and sex with the Redeemer between the same covers may blanch as well as flush.” Anne Newkirk Niven, editor-in-chief at Sage Woman Magazine was so taken by the character Maeve that she commissioned Ms. Cunningham to write an advice column in her magazine inspired by the character’s persona, which is now set to run this June.

Ms. Cunningham will also be touring nationally and giving readings/performances at many well known book venues including Elliot Bay in Seattle, A Room of One’s Own in Madison, WI, Hue-Man Books in New York City, Book Soup in Los Angeles, Women and Children First and Transitions in Chicago, The Learning Annex in San Francisco, as well as Borders in Oak Brook, IL, Redmond, WA, and Canoga Park, CA, and Barnes and Nobles in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Framingham, MA.

Elizabeth Cunningham’s other works include The Wild Mother, her first novel, which was hailed by Publishers Weekly as “a beguiling tour de force.” Her most recent novel Daughter of the Shining Isles, the prequel to THE PASSION, to be reissued by Monkfish in 2007, was voted one of the top ten fantasy novels of 2000 by the St. Louis Post Dispatch and Booklist. Her other books include the novels, Return of the Goddess, How to Spin Gold and a collection of poetry Small Bird, Poems & Prayers. She is currently at work on the final book of THE MAEVE CHRONICLES, Bright Dark Madonna where Maeve’s adventures will bring her to motherhood; take her to Ephesus for a final showdown with Paul, to a hermit cave in Southern France, and at last to the British Isles where long-unfinished business awaits her. Anticipated release date, also by Monkfish, is 2008 or 2009.

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Monkfish Book Publishing Company is an independent press in Rhinebeck, New York publishing fiction and non-fiction books that combine spiritual and literary merit. Monkfish books are distributed to the trade by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution.

Paul Cohen

Monkfish Book Publishing Company


ISBN 0-9766843-0-6; 640 pages, hardcover, $29.95


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