Publisher's description: Arguably the most influential of all women throughout history, Mary, the Virgin Mother is also, paradoxically, the least known. In this unprecedented brilliantly wrought biography, Mary comes believably to life. We are so used to the legendary image of the Madonna that the very idea of her as a real person sets the eyes alight. Starting with the dark-skinned, hard-muscled girl barely out of adolescence when she gave birth, Lesley Hazleton weaves together the many facets of Mary's existence: peasant villager, wise woman and healer, activist, mother, teacher, and yes, virgin, though in a sense we have long forgotten. She follows her through the worst any mother can experience-the excruciating death of her child-and then looks at how she transforms grief into wisdom, disaster into renewal. Strong and courageous, the source of her son's powers of healing and wisdom, the Mary we see here did not merely assent to her role in history, but actively chose it, and lived it to the fullest. As a former psychologist and political reporter with deep roots in both Judaism and Catholicism, Hazleton has drawn on years of Middle East experience as well as on anthropology, history, theology, and above all, empathy to reconstruct Mary's life. The woman she discovers is neither demystified nor diminished, but on the contrary, all the more meaningful and admirable. By honoring her reality, Hazleton has given her back to herself-and to us.