This isn’t your mother’s Mother Mary. Forget the Annunciation or the Virgin Birth. The only Assumption here is that Mary is a troubled woman, haunted by Golgotha, hunted by assassins, waiting for death.
Colm Toibin has stepped into the lives of historical figures before with spectacular success. The Irish writer’s most celebrated novel, “The Master,” recreated Henry James in a wry imitation of James’s own style. But that was a literary transformation of studied subtlety. Now that Toibin has moved on to a Master even more revered, he’s tearing out rooms and replacing the furniture. Anyone familiar with the Gospels will find this novella a foreign, unsettling place.