The Magdalene Line – an Allegory of Faith
Kathleen McGowan’s debut novel is an epic spiritual achievement
For two thousand years, an undiscovered treasure waited within the wild red mountains of southwestern France: a series of scrolls written in the first century by Mary Magdalene. The revelations within Mary’s secret gospel have the power to rock the foundation of the western world as they redefine the events and characters surrounding The Passion of Jesus Christ. Protected by supernatural forces, the priceless scrolls can only be uncovered by a special seeker, one who has been chosen for the task by divine providence – the woman known in prophecy as The Expected One.
The Magdalene Line reveals secrets kept in blood and faith for 2000 years, startling information that has been protected by secret societies and individual families since the time of the Crucifixion.
From: The Magdalene Line: Book I, The Expected One,
by Kathleen McGowan
Kathleen McGowan’s debut novel, The Magdalene Line: Book I, The Expected One, will draw inevitable comparisons to Dan Brown’s runaway bestseller, The Da Vinci Code. But such comparisons are unfair and inaccurate.
Ms. McGowan’s book is in a class by itself.
The first in a trilogy that explores the theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were legally man and wife, The Expected One takes the reader on an enthralling and often shocking journey that spans twenty centuries of history. Ostensibly, Kathleen McGowan has blood ties to this mystery and was therefore given proprietary access to the stunning information disclosed within. The high impact of her story comes from the unexpected newness of the material. In a market suddenly glutted by Da Vinci Code copycats, Ms. McGowan has achieved the impossible: she delivers a fresh and unique perspective that is also a courageous and elegant piece of work. This is the definitive, explosive account of the Jesus and Mary Magdalene controversy as written by a descendant of their ancient bloodline.
There are two complete story lines woven through the novel: one set in modern times which mirrors the author’s personal journey of discovery, the other chronicles the life of Mary Magdalene from her childhood in the first century. While both are compelling and tied together seamlessly, it is certainly the full account of Mary Magdalene’s life which will keep the reader engrossed. An entirely human and compassionate portrait emerges of the extraordinary woman who arguably had the closest relationship to the Nazarene. Her account of the final days in the life of Jesus Christ is almost unbearably moving in its humanity and realness.
This is more than a novel. It is an allegory of faith. And while more traditional Christians may find the unorthodox idea of Christ as a husband and father to be troubling, there is little here to threaten any belief system. Ms. McGowan does not challenge the nature of Jesus as the Son of God. She is, in fact, painstaking in her respectful portrayal of Christ as a divinity on earth. The power comes from the juxtaposition of the human and divine elements: Christ as messiah, but also as partner, father, son and friend
The potential authenticity of Mary Magdalene’s version of The Greatest Story Ever Told stays with the reader long after the final page has been turned. This is the essence of real art: thought provoking, evocative, with the potential to be life changing.
An Irish News interview with author Kathleen McGowan (from March 2005)
Note from Kathleen: In March of 2005, I self-published the first edition of The Expected One. The book was considered so controversial at the time that I could not get traditional publishers or agents to support the material, and that part of my “history” are contained within this interview. It is an amazing thing for me to look back on this five years later and know that The Expected One has now sold a million copies worldwide and is in over 30 languages and over 60 countries.
Q – You have been working on this book for over a decade. Is it frustrating for you to hear accusations that you are riding the coattails of The Da Vinci Code?
A – Yes, it’s maddening. I give Dan Brown all due credit for writing a book that obviously resonated with the public. What I object to is this attitude in the publishing industry that The Da Vinci Code is the ultimate and final word on the subject, when it isn’t even close. Dan Brown tells a great story but his research is outdated. So take it for what it is, which is an entertaining thriller. But please don’t accept it as the last word on Mary Magdalene. That would be both an injustice and a tragedy.
A – Well, my book contains information about her that is unavailable anywhere else. There does seem to be a Magdalene bandwagon now, but the majority of what is out there is rehash. My book is different for two reasons: First, because it is the only book in print that tells the complete story of her life with Jesus. Second, because it is based on stunning source material that has been previously undisclosed.
Q – You formed your own publishing company to create this book series, yet it seems like publishers would be fighting over this material. Why did you take the independent path?
A – Because everyone I approached in traditional publishing had a tunnel vision perspective based on The Da Vinci Code. One agent told me to add action sequences to make it more like Dan Brown’s book, one asked me to take out the art history references to make it less like it. I wasn’t going to make those concessions because they were damaging to the integrity of the story I needed to tell. So after a year of beating my head against the wall, I realized I had to circumvent the system in order to publish my pure vision of this story.
I’ve been working on this book since 1995, so any similarities to Dan Brown’s are a simple coincidence of the subject matter. Yes, my book has an important scene in the Louvre and so does The Da Vinci Code. I have a scene in the Church of San Sulpice, and so does Dan Brown. But the comparisons end there.
It’s like saying “Go write a book about the French Revolution but don’t mention the guillotine, the Bastille, Marie Antoinette or Robespierre because that’s already been done.” You can’t leave out elements and settings that are organic to the story.
Q – Anyone who reads even the first pages of your book will see that they are very different works.
A – Absolutely. The trick is getting them to read it in the first place by making sure the public understands the differences. And yet the similarities are also important because Dan Brown left a lot of unanswered questions. My book answers those questions while also correcting the errors. In many ways, and perhaps somewhat ironically, The Magdalene Line picks up where the Da Vinci Code left off.
Q – There’s a great bit in the Foreword about walking the line between “suburban little league mom and Indiana Jones.” How hard has that been for you?
A – Not hard so much as challenging. And sometimes surreal as you worry about burning the roast beef because you’re immersed in the translation of some ancient document and forget to turn the oven down. Every time I take off my 7th century ring from Jerusalem to wash the dishes, I have to laugh at the contrast.
Q – How do your sons feel about this book? It could impact their lives very seriously.
A – They’re amazing and supportive, but you have to remember that they’ve been there with me all along, through the treks across the continents, all of the mysterious and supernatural circumstances. They’ve witnessed it and are a part of the story themselves. So for them, it’s not shocking or controversial. It’s just the truth. And I’m just mom.
Q – One of the primary characters is an Irish priest. I loved that he was by no means a stereotype. How did he evolve?
A – Father Peter is arguably the most important character in the book. I wanted to create a priest who was a real person and not a cardboard cutout or a stereotype Vatican watchdog. I have received a lot of help over the years from priests – open minded, caring, educated and often complex human beings. I wanted to express that through Peter’s character. It’s very easy in a book like this to blame the Church for all of history’s injustices, and I didn’t want to do that.
The theme of this book, as told through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, is personal accountability. She makes that point over and over again – that we should look at people as individuals based on their personal choices and not pass group judgments. Whether we’re talking about the Temple in the 1st century or the Vatican in the 21st century, some priests are more flawed than others, some are more saintly than others. They’re all human beings and individuals.
Q – You take a very different point of view regarding Leonardo Da Vinci. I don‘t think it’s giving too much away to say that he’s essentially a villain in your story.
A – Yes, and it’s my greatest dispute with Dan Brown’s book. His idea that Leonardo would have been somehow involved with a secret society that revered women – and Mary Magdalene specifically – is ridiculous. Sorry, but nothing could be further from the truth. Even the most cursory study of Leonardo indicates his derogatory opinion of women. So while many modern researchers came to this conclusion about Leonardo’s involvement in secret societies, they simply didn’t dig deep enough to see what he was really about.
Q – You draw an interesting comparison to the Christian martyrs of Montsegur and the Jewish martyrs of Masada. How will Jewish people react to this material? Is that something you think about?
A – Most definitely. The reaction of the Jewish community is so important to me. I believe – and I certainly hope and pray – that Mary’s material offers us an opportunity to come together, to realize that we really are all far more alike than different. A lot of old wounds were reopened last year with Mel Gibson’s film, which is so unfortunate. I’m hoping this material can work toward healing some of those wounds.
Q – What do you want people to take away from these books?
A – A new understanding of a beautiful love story and its tremendous legacy. The idea that Jesus was teaching that the Kingdom of God belonged to everyone and that we can create heaven on earth. The knowledge that there are thousands of his descendants alive today and that they could be anywhere. Perhaps that will encourage people to treat each other with a little more kindness. You could be entertaining angels unaware.
I really want to stress that what makes this book different from the other Mary Magdalene works that are swarming the marketplace is that I never, ever question the divinity of Jesus. There has been a publishing trend for some time now that in order to exalt Mary and raise her to a position of authority, it is somehow necessary to diminish the divine nature of Jesus. I reject that completely. The idea of Jesus having children, of founding a bloodline, is only important if we accept His divinity. And I certainly do.
Q – Are you The Expected One?
A – (Laughs)… No. I’m just the storyteller.
Q – One last question. Do these scrolls containing Mary Magdalene’s lost gospel really exist?
A – I’ll never tell. On second thought, maybe I will. Read on.
The Magdalene Line: Book I, The Expected One, was first released on March 22, 2005. Simon & Schuster re-released the book in North America on July 25, 2006. The rest… is Herstory.
REVIEW / AUTHOR Q & A / Courtesy of The Irish News & Entertainment (USA)
(publisher James McDonough)
Run date: February 5, 2005