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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Monday, May 12, 2008

Resurrection by Tucker Malarkey

Resurrection by Tucker Malarkey. New York: Riverhead Books (Penguin Group), 2006. ISBN: 1-59448-919-X

I read this book because I'm interested in that alternative branch of religious thought known as gnosticism, and especially in the Christian branches of it. This is a novel based around the original discovery, shortly after World War II, of the Nag Hammadi texts, which included a number of gnostic writings and gospels, including the Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, among others.

This is a fictional version of the story, of course, and as such, has as its major characters, people who never existed. Gemma (what a strange name!) Bastian is an English woman, a nurse who has barely survived the London blitz, and whose father was a researcher in Egypt. When she learns of his unexpected and untimely death, she travels to Egypt to try and discover something of what happened, and to deal with his effects.

In the course of this odyssey, she encounters an interesting family of expatriates with whom she stays. The father had been a friend of her father, but they seem to have become estranged. One son is a bitter and disillusioned RAF pilot, who lost a leg in the war, and who begins to fall in love with Gemma, but whose scarred experience seems to have left him incapable of any genuine emotions.

The other brother is, like Gemma's father, a man on the track of these ancient documents, but he treats Gemma superciliously, trying to keep her at a distance, wanting to protect her from the danger that has perhaps killed her father, and several others. Some of his efforts seem genuine, others patronizing, because of Gemma's sex.

Powerful forces are at work, and some of them are sinister. Not everyone wants these old gospels to come to light. And others are simply motivated by greed, determined to capture whatever value the manuscripts may have in the world marketplace.

Gemma, herself, is on a journey of discovery. She is determined to learn whatever it was that drove her father, and to get to the bottom of what may have caused her death. And she is torn between the two brothers themselves, and their growing relationships with her.

Fortunately for us, author Tucker Malarkey (what a name!) has provided us not only with an introductory note, explaining her motives in writing the book, but with an Epilogue, a Timeline, a “Who Is Real” note, and other brief, but telling accompanimental material as well.

At the root of much of what Gemma discovers, in retracing the intellectual and physical steps of her father, is that the Roman Church has put forward its own version of Christianity, a version in which there is almost no significant role for women. The alternative version(s) show that women had an equally important role in other early traditions, and in the life of Christ himself, if these other texts are to be believed.

While I would not describe this book as a great literary masterpiece, it succeeds in retelling much of this important story in an evocative and compelling manner. Definitely recommended for anyone with any interest in this topic, and especially for those who prefer to learn while being entertained by a story, as opposed to a more scholarly approach.

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