The Expected One
Author: Kathleen McGowan
Reviewed by Theresa Welsh
In June of 2005 I reviewed the self-published version of this book (image at left) after Kathleen McGowan sent me a copy. My review of the book is below, followed by a note explaining the problems I had dealing with the author. She has since made a deal with Simon and Schuster and the book has been published in a beautiful hardcover edition, as shown at right.
For everyone who follows the historical mysteries and theological controversies that swirl around
the life of Jesus, there's a new book you might enjoy reading. Kathleen McGowan brings us yet another
version of the "bloodline of Jesus" theory that first surfaced over twenty years ago with the
publication of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. That book, by Henry Lincoln, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, is a classic of alternate history and one of my very favorite books.
Holy Blood, Holy Grail (see my review) postulated
that a secret society called the Priory of Sion had been keeping
an explosive secret down through the years, and the Grand Masters of this society had been some
of history's most prominent luminaries, including Leonardo DaVinci. And, yes, this is the same
book that Dan Brown used as source material for his blockbuster hit, The DaVinci Code.
But Brown, for all his literary success (much deserved - I have read and enjoyed ALL his books)
is a lightweight in terms of the real debate.
A New Version of History?
Into that debate comes McGowan, with a tale she says is fiction, but with a story
line she says is real, based on years of research and access to secret information,
whose source she does not reveal. She is clearly aiming at heavyweight status among
the purveyors of a new version of history.
So what does she say that is so intriguing and is it worth your time to read her book?
McGowan weaves a tale of Maureen, a writer whose Irish father died when she was young under
circumstances she never understood. Her mother took her to Ireland where she was raised
mainly by an aunt. Her one confidante is her cousin, Father Peter Healy, with whom she grew up.
The Mysteries Begin
But Maureen is no ordinary person. She is in Jerusalem when she spots an unusual ring in a
shop and it fits perfectly on her finger. The shopkeeper tells her the ring is not for sale,
but it is a gift to her, as she is obviously the one for whom it was intended.
The mysterious ring becomes the reason she later receives an invitation to visit
a fabulous chateau in France, invited by eccentric Englishman Berenger Sinclair
(to alternate history buffs, this man's first name and last name will have significance).
Sinclair invites her to a costume ball for the many fanatical followers of
Mary Magdalene who populate the southwest corner of France and congregate
near the infamous village of Rennes-le-Chateau (another hot button for
alternate history buffs). Maureen has written a book about important,
misunderstood women throughout history, including Magdalene who the Church
has miscast as a prostitute (which she most certainly was not!). With urging
from her friend Tammy, who is also invited, Maureen decides to accept Sinclair's offer.
And let's don't forget that Maureen has recurring visions of Mary Magdalene,
which she has only shared with Father Peter Healy. The visions worry her; she trusts her cousin and hopes he can help her understand what is happening to her, since he is a Catholic priest. She goes to France
looking for answers and Father Healy comes with her.
Magdalene's Own Story
So far, it's just a story, but in between chapters we get snippets of
"The Arques Gospel of Mary Magdalene" and it's quite a tale she tells.
She is the loving wife of "Easa" (Jesus) and the mother of three children.
We also get narrative sections in which the author tells Magdalene's story and it's not
the story you've heard before. In this story, Magdalene is first married
(against her wishes, as she loves Easa) to John the Baptist, with whom
she has a child. Alas, John (as we know from the Bible) was beheaded
by Herod, leaving Magdalene a widow. But Salome, the Biblical siren
who dances for Herod and demands John's head on a platter, is not
really responsible for John's death, although we don't feel too
badly about his passing as we continue reading because, in
this version, John is not a nice person. He and Jesus have
different teachings. And with John out of the way, Magdalene
is finally married to Easa, who has begun his public preaching.
That infamous "bloodline"
Meanwhile, back at the chateau, Maureen is learning a lot about her
ancestry, as she is "of the bloodline" as are Sinclair and most of
the characters. It turns out there are two rival factions of modern
seekers of the real Magdalene. The evildoers are the descendants
of John, while the others who descend from Jesus are more kind-hearted.
But all are seeking the same thing: a manuscript, the Gospel of
Mary Magdalene, and they believe The Expected One is the only person
who can find it. You guessed it: Maureen is The Expected One. And
she DOES find it! Father Healy, who has come with her to the chateau,
is able to translate it and Sinclair, his faithful servant
Roland, Tammy and Maureen are the first to hear the
story of Magdalene and her beloved Easa.
Is it Real or is it Fiction?
I found the book an interesting and exciting tale in itself, but it
left me with questions about what part is real and what part is fiction.
I have emailed the author, been to her web site, and joined her online
discussion group, but I still don't have answers. She does say the
Magdalene gospel is real, but if so, who has it? What is its history?
I also gather that the ring is real, so the story of finding it in
Jerusalem may be real, but the author says she is not "The Expected One."
So what are we to think?
There are many other books about Mary Magdalene and other theories of
her having a close relationship with Jesus. There is some evidence for
it - the same evidence that makes people take The DaVinci Code seriously,
mainly the Gnostic Gospel of Mary and Gospel of Thomas. These are documents
of fairly recent discovery that give a different picture of Jesus and his
followers and show that Mary Magdalene was at least a close and beloved
disciple. Magdalene as wife of Jesus has been suggested before,
but could she have been married to John the Baptist as well?
What about the rivalry between John and Jesus depicted in
The Expected One? There are modern-day followers of John the Baptist,
sects that say John was the real messiah. There are theories that
The Dead Sea Scrolls, which talk about characters referred to as
The Teacher of Righteousness and The Liar are referring to John
and Jesus. Then there are other scholars who say those
designations do not refer to John and Jesus, and their timeline
places the scrolls well before Jesus' ministry. But in McGowan's
book, the secret group that reveres John calls their leader the
Teacher of Righteousness. She refers to John and Jesus as being
"Nazarene" not Essene, but the community of Qumran, which is
believed to be the source of the scrolls, was Essene.
McGowan has much to say about the Cathars, a Christian sect that was
once prominent in the area of France near Rennes-le-Chateau. I found her
descriptions of Montsegur (a stone fortress on a sheer cliff where the remaining Cathars were exterminated by the
forces of the pope, after a crusade that pitted Christian against Christian) and
Rennes-le-Chateau very good reading. These sites and the stories behind them
are very well known to students of alternate views of history, but we
rarely get such a close-up look at the experience of visiting them.
No New Insights About Jesus
I was disappointed to find her Jesus a Hollywood stereotype
who is loving to everyone and heals the sick and forgives his enemies.
That would be ok if we learned anything new about his teachings, but
we do not. There is no revelation about the meaning of the crucifixion
or the resurrection. Perhaps McGowan had access to "a story" but not
the meaning of the story, which is the important part. Or maybe we
all have to find our own meaning in the story, but if you're
looking for spiritual insight, you won't find it here.
On the other hand, the tender relationship between Magdalene and
Easa is touching and believable. Why shouldn't Jesus have been married?
It was the practice of Jewish people, and especially required for rabbis,
and would have been even more important for someone of royal blood. And if
Magdalene was the wife of Jesus, then her
story is of great interest. Recent scholarly research has tended to
make this picture of Jesus and Mary Magdalene as loving companions
more likely to be true.
What are the Sources?
But how real is the picture we get in
The Expected One? Where does the fiction end and the "secret source"
of information begin? And how reliable is that secret source? If the
author had the visions attributed to Maureen, what do they mean?
Are other people having visions of Magdalene too (as we learn
that there are Magdalene visionaries even in places like McLean, Virginia)?
Is the spirit of Mary Magdalene working to bring the truth to the world through
the mediumship of her descendants?
McGowan is obviously familiar with much of the literature of alternate
history, and she makes use of it in this story. Her character, Sinclair,
resides at the "Chateau des Pommes Bleues" - "blue apples" -
another esoteric reference, and she knows all the legends about Mary
Magdalene and the south of France. So, she is equipped to write a good story,
which she has done. But can we take what passes for "revelations" seriously?
In my opinion, no. Not until we know her sources.
But stay tuned. Two more books are planned, so maybe we will get answers
if we keep reading.
After I posted this review (on 6/26/2005) I was immediately attacked on the author's Yahoo
"discussion" group, for reasons that make no sense. I was insulted
(the book is "too sacred for you to understand"), told I was
"risking the lives of those who safeguard one of the greatest treasures of
humankind" with my questions, accused of claiming some higher knowledge
("if you are such a mistress of all things arcane") and even a novel
I wrote called Tara: Initiate of Heliopolis was brought into it, as if I
was claiming to be the initiate. My book is just a fictional story for young
adults and contains no secret knowledge, unlike the claims of McGowan for The
Expected One. The so-called "discussion" was mainly a collection of
bad-taste insults hurled at people who don't
wholeheartedly sign on to whatever it is they think is so important.
Frankly, the posts left there were so
vituperative and irrational that I declined to waste my time answering their abuse
and deleted myself from the group. I plan to have no more contact with
these people and do not plan to read the next two books. This kind of grossly
unprofessional behavior on the part of an author is something I have never encountered before, in many
years as a reviewer. McGowan is building a cult around her Magdalene ideas and it is plain she will
never have an explanation for the alleged Magdalene manuscript.
August 2005 - I have unfortunately had to deal with the author and her antics on more
occasions. I've heard from another reviewer who was also insulted and threatened by McGowan. A number of
reviews have appeared and disappeared from the Amazon listing for The Expected One. One review (that is
fortunately gone now) again mentioned me as someone who had written a "bad review" of this book. If anyone
reading the above review thinks it is a "bad review" please email me and tell me why. A number of Amazon "reviews"
have appeared and disappeared from "Mongoose" who I believe to be Kathleen McGowan. She left
an incredibly hateful and insulting "review" for my book, Tara, Initiate of Heliopolis.
I am sure she never read the book and this was her way of trying to hurt me (and for what?). Fortunately, Amazon
has removed all of Mongoose's so-called reviews.
The idea that I am somehow "jealous" of Kathleen McGowan sends my level of pity for this bunch
of nut cases to a new high. I have absolutely no interest in what these people think or don't
think about Mary Magdalene. I am just a reviewer and I was simply trying to do what reviewers do,
which is fairly evaluate a book.
How can anyone claiming a kinship with Jesus possibly justify such vengeful and uncharitable behavior?
Further Note: As of 8-10-2005 Amazon removed the listing, along with
the reviews, for The Expected One. It was not surprising, considering
the annoyance it must have been for them, getting constant requests to have
reviews kept or removed. The book doesn't seem to be available at any of the
usual online sites, but you can still go to the web site at www.themagdaleneline.com
if you would like to order the book.
2006 Update: This book has been picked up by an established publisher and is out in
a new edition in July 2006. It has a new cover and is again listed on amazon.com. Once again,
there are a bunch of reviews, many favorable, but not as obsequiously flattering as the original
batch that caused Amazon to remove the former edition from its website. However, if you click the
"see my other reviews" buttons for the so-called reviewers, you can see which of them have never
written another review. I suspect
that, once again, Kathleen's cronies and "true believers" are writing these "reviews." They will
have to be careful about protesting against honest reviews from real reviewers lest Amazon again
pull the plug on this book. Time will tell what becomes the legacy of Kathleen McGowan's story.