The Testament of Mary

  • by Colm Toibin
  • Narrated by Meryl Streep
  • 3 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Finalist, Solo Narration - Female, 2014
Audie Award Finalist, Literary Fiction, 2014
Meryl Streep’s performance of Colm Tóibín's acclaimed portrait of Mary is hailed by the New York Times Book Review as “an ideal audiobook,” presenting the three-time Academy Award-winner in “yet another great role.” Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Colm Tóibín's The Testament of Mary presents Mary as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity. In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son's crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel. They are her keepers, providing her with food and shelter and visiting her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was "worth it"; nor that the "group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye," were holy disciples. This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone, in a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.
Now Meryl Streep brings Tóibín's tour de force of imagination and language to unforgettable life with “simplicity, honesty, [and] a clarity that draws us into the emotional landscape of the book through the beauty of the writing,” writes Charles Isherwood in the New York Times Book Review. “Streep has an impressive ability to crest the structurally intricate sentences Tóibín has fashioned, which sometimes have the flowing, rhythmic cadences of certain passages in the Bible itself,” Isherwood writes of her performance. “Streep’s voice is familiar to generations of moviegoers, but its beauty as an instrument can be appreciated in this context as it often cannot be in films. … Tóibín's exquisite book [is] rendered by Streep with all its detached, quiet, consoling humanity intact.”

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What the Critics Say

*"....beautiful and daring....Tóibín is at his lyrical best in The Testament of Mary....Originally performed as a one-woman show in Dublin, it takes its power from the surprises of its language, its almost shocking characterization, its austere refusal of consolation." (Mary Gordon, The New York Times Book Review)
"The Testament of Mary is sort of an ideal audiobook…. Streep's voice is familiar to generations of moviegoers, but its beauty as an instrument can be appreciated in this context as it often cannot be in films…. The result: simplicity, honesty, a clarity that draws us into the emotional landscape of the book through the beauty of the writing…. [O]ften there is a simmering intensity, as of overwhelming feeling held just barely in check. And there is, again, the sheer beauty of the voice, which has a cello-like resonance, slightly dark-timbered…. Streep rises to the heights of the most harrowing passages in the book with a stealth that takes you by surprise, so fluidly does she connect the subtle changes in feeling that overtake Mary as she tells of her confusion at what is happening, her fear when she hears that her son's death has been ordained, her horror at bearing witness to it." (Charles Isherwood, The New York Times Book Review)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

from a non believer...

A very touching, human account of an event that has no contemporary writers.
Mary is a mother, above all. Her son is taken away from her, she has no power over him.
His actions and companions get him in trouble with the law.
Divine ?...Human ?...it doesn't matter. Her pain, regret and guilt are real.
I'll listen to it again. It's so powerful.
Meryl Streep deserves ten stars and more. She makes Mary talk directly to you as if sharing a cup of coffee.
It didn't change my beliefs, but just the same, it gave me goose bumps.
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- Taormina60

A living, breathing woman

There have been a lot of literary interpretations of other women from the Bible; Mary Magdalene, for example, has been reexamined and interpreted in many ways. But rarely has an author taken on the prospect of transforming the Holy Mother herself into a flesh and blood woman and mother. Our religious images are too imposing: the serene, sorrowful, and eternally loving and patient virgin and Saint.

This is an exceptional performance of an impressive monologue. Meryl Streep's expressive, clear and powerful voice conveys what actually might be the thoughts and feelings of a mother in the circumstances in which Mary finds herself. She's an old woman now, weary and heartbroken still, sometimes questioning and untrusting, even angry. All that, and yet the qualities of her strength and honesty shine through.

Some will of course be offended to see Mother Mary presented in this way, without the trappings of 2000+ years of religious teachings. I was very moved by Toibin's writing and Meryl Streep's interpretation. The "Testament" is brief, thought-provoking, and just about perfect in every way. This Mary is truly full of grace.
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- C. Telfair

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-10-2013
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio