What Tóibín has tried to do is imagine the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and have her tell what she witnessed. The story starts with a frame consisting of the men who visit her trying to get her to say more 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 birth and childhood 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, nicely written with an interesting structure.