What Tóibín has tried to do is imagine the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and have her tell what she knows about her son. The story starts with a frame consisting of two men who visit her regularly trying to get her to talk about what she witnessed. Then it goes back to when Jesus begins his ministry, continues until some time after his death, and ends with the frame again – the male visitors. (apostles? – )
In the New Testament Mary is only mentioned a very few times after his ministry begins and Tóibín expands on those – the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the wedding at Cana and the crucifixion. In Tóibín’s book Mary is not a total convert, but much of that is left to the reader’s interpretation.
I wasn’t as enthralled by the book as some reviewers, but it was an original concept to actually put into a novel and it was nicely written with an interesting structure.