Sylvia Bryan’s Anne’s Angel Came Twice is a retelling of the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The story begins when an angel appears to Mary’s mother, Anne. It continues through the birth and life of Mary and the birth and life of Jesus through the beginning of his ministry.
Bryan does a nice job capturing Anne and her husband’s emotion in the initial chapters. The couple is heartbroken due to Anne’s barrenness, precipitating the first visit from the angel, who promises Anne that she is to be the grandmother of the Messiah. She is told she’ll have a sinless daughter who will become “the most important woman in the world.” The second angel visitation is familiar from the biblical narrative where the angel appears to Mary to tell her she is to be the mother of Jesus.
Other than the addition of the characters of Anne and her husband, the novel follows the biblical story fairly closely, which is both the book’s strength and weakness. While the familiarity nicely reinforces biblical lore, at times the text seems too much like a tedious retelling of a story already familiar to its target audience. Added details, such as the “ever present danger [to travelers] from lions and the straw-coloured Syrian bear,” help add interest to the narrative—as does the information the author offers of young Mary’s training under a rabbi. The story could, however, use more such tidbits of unique information to keep readers engaged and lend a greater feeling of discovery to the reading experience.
The “sinless” nature of Mary has been the subject of debate within various religious denominations; some readers may take issue with this depiction. Nonetheless, Mary’s good and kind spirit make her a worthy heroine, and while the sense of familiarity with the story might deter some, most Christian readers will appreciate this novel.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.