The Book of Mary
Anthony Zurlo, Editor
You have probably never read anything quite like it.
Read the Endorsements and Reviews here.
See the language warning below in red.
A box of miscellaneous items, contents unknown, is purchased at an estate sale. At the bottom of the box are journals covering the period 1986 to 1993. They have been written by a woman named Mary living in the northeast United States. Mary is 32 at the date of the first entry. She has a very young daughter, with health problems, whom she is raising and loves dearly.
During the roughly 6.5 years covered by the journals, Mary struggles with drug addiction, has a few brief part-time jobs, periodically works as a prostitute, has her fourth abortion, maintains relationships with several men, and is HIV-positive. The writing is raw and honest and profane and vulgar and full of tragic, fleeting, unfocused hopes and tissue-thin plans to improve her life.
After the last journal entry, dated April 1993, we have no more information about Mary, except this: Social Security records reveal that she died in 1997, her address at time of death listed as Unknown. Her parents are dead, and her daughter cannot be located.
Anthony Zurlo was at that auction. As he later read Mary’s journals, his heart was broken at the hopelessness he saw in its pages. Your heart may be broken as well. But Anthony also saw a version of his own life in Mary’s challenges. It is, in fact, a version of all our lives as we struggle daily to resist the habits, desires, and thought patterns that come so easily but do such damage. Anthony has transcribed the journal writings faithfully—including misspellings; various errors and oddities; and entries that are undated, misdated, or were apparently written in random blank spots and thus appear out of order—with the following exceptions:
• Names and initials in the journal have been changed, except for Mary’s first name.
• Profanity and vulgarity have been replaced with ____.
• Accounts of sexual encounters have been omitted, with the omissions noted.
Also not reproduced here are many clippings pasted or slipped into the journals, mostly from magazines and primarily pertaining to fashion, drug use, sexuality, movies, and TV.
Anthony has also written an introduction and a conclusion, and at three points in the journal has added observation and commentary on Mary’s life, the nature of hope, and the many ways in which all our lives are not so unlike hers.
Fair warning: Your brain will probably fill in some of the rough language represented by blanks. Please understand that before you decide to read The Book of Mary: Diary of an Addict.
Read more below…
As one who has ministered to the addicted and homeless for more than 30 years, I was deeply moved by Mary’s journal. So much of my information about the life of an addict comes from “a look backward”—by recovering addicts. Even those who report in real time tend to filter what they say in response to what they think the listener wants to hear. Mary’s journals show the thinking process in “real time” while “stuck,” and the hopelessness of that life.
The juxtaposition of Mary’s reflections and Mr. Zurlo’s arguments for the hunger we all feel and the only source that can fully satisfy it is powerful. I recommend this book both to understand those trapped in destructive life cycles and to gain greater appreciation and understanding of the role grace must play in all of our lives if we are to have hope.
Reid Lehman, President/CEO, Miracle Hill Ministries
The Book of Mary is a raw look at a life lived without the pretenses most of us use to insulate ourselves from our brokenness and mortality. Anthony Zurlo’s reflections on Mary’s story show that the happiness and hope that Mary sought in all the wrong places are in fact gifts from God himself. Read this book if you are courageous enough to look at your own life without your favored pretenses.
Doug Whitelaw, Executive Director, arkaidmission.com
The Book of Mary levels the playing field for all of humanity! If we’re honest, Mary’s life of empty pursuit is not unlike our own. This raw story of life, addiction, brokenness, and pain is a springboard for a profound message of Hope! As the son of an addict and a youth pastor counseling teens, I find The Book of Mary to be timely story that will wake us up and give us hope.
Josh Saenz, Youth Pastor, Foothills Evangelical Free Church, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
I marvel at the explicitness and honesty that Mary communicates throughout her diary. Surely Mary had a troubled and tragic life. She shows us her sadness, anger, hurt, dependence, and hopelessness while still clinging to the joys of motherhood and her sweet child, Lucy. The realities she faces as an addict and the desperation she exhibits through her drug dependence, as well as her dependence on sex for both monetary and momentary fulfillment, pale in comparison to her inability to provide for her child as she should financially, morally, and (most important) spiritually.
To a reader unfamiliar with a life such as Mary’s, this certainly could be a shocking and troubling book to read. The frankness and ugliness of sin and addiction can be overwhelming. Yet the editor also delivers for all readers—and just as frankly—clearly presenting a parallel and very different message. He shows what being an addict entails—and that we all are addicts in one form or another.
The Gospel message is clearly stated, and there is no question that the reader will be challenged to consider exactly where he stands. It is my hope that those who, like Mary, feel the hopelessness of their plight, will read this book and understand that they are not alone. May this frank and understandable book open eyes and hearts to the only hope there is to life itself: Jesus Christ, our Savior!
Sanford “Sandy” Otsuji, Chief Senior Chaplain, Orange County Sheriff’s Department; Chaplain and Death Investigator, Orange County Sheriff, Coroner’s Division
“a fantastic resource for evangelical witness to an addict”
Okay. So, Cruciform Press just did something pretty radical. They have an eBook that you can download from their website for just 99 cents through January 3rd. First book I ever read without paper. But I really wanted to read it. Anthoy Zurlo found a box from an estate auction filled with some journals. These journal entries basically make up the entire (short) book, with some very good commentary intertwined by Zurlo. The journals were written by a woman named Mary from 1986-1993. She was a mom, a drug addict, very sexually active, tormented by her sin, and had AIDS.
But Zurlo challenges the reader while we offer our pity and make our judgments on Mary. How different are we? He makes some great points about how drug addicts are actually more honest with themselves than a lot of us “normal” people. He says normal can be tragic. At least the addict’s eyes are opened to the fact that they have no hope to escape this world of death.
[Long quote from the book.]
Of course the Christian knows the true hope that does not disappoint. Our future, sure hope bleeds into our present, as Zurlo says, and gives us true joy. Mary mentioned in one of her journal entries how she was attracted to men who showed leadership and authority. That is our Savior, the only one with ultimate authority who led by sacrificing himself for people worse off than Mary—and you and me. As a matter of fact, he suffered in our place. Zurlo gives a beautiful gospel presentation at the end of this book. And it is really a fantastic resource for evangelical witness to an addict.
But The Book of Mary is helpful to the person who already knows Christ as well. As I read Mary’s life of despair, I got to know a real person–not a drug addict. You cannot read this book without developing true compassion for those who really know they are lost. I hope that you will go to CruciformPress’s website and download a copy for yourself!
Aimee Byrd, Housewife Theologian