FAIRFIELD, NJ — Local author Catherine Magia, a former Fairfield resident and 1996 graduate of West Essex High School, recently returned to her hometown to speak at the Fairfield Public Library about the recently published second edition of her historical fiction trilogy.
As she addressed the community, Magia signed copies of her new book, “The Fisher of Women: The Tale of the Forgotten Healer of Galilee,” which is the sequel to “The Fishermen’s Bride: The Untold Story of the Wife of Simon Peter.”
Magia’s second novel continues the story of Simon Peter's wife, who is deliberately unnamed in the series as a reflection of her lack of mention in the Bible and other historical documents of the time.
In explanation of the inspiration behind this historical fiction trilogy, Magia explained that proof of her existence appears in the Bible (Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:29-31 and Luke 4:38-41), where Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, as well as in 1 Corinthians 9:5, it states that Peter’s wife traveled with him.
In her research of other ancient documents, Magia found that Peter’s wife was martyred prior to the crucifixion of Peter, and that first-century theologian Clement of Alexandria documented her martyrdom—but these are the only references to the wife’s existence.
“I discovered the voice of Simon Peter’s wife on a soul-searching journey, while trekking through the biblical lands of Israel, Jordan and Egypt,” said Magia. “I spent seven years writing and researching my debut novel, traveling as far as Ephesus, Turkey.”
According to Magia, her new book “is a journey filled with faith and healing miracles, magic, and ancient medicine.”
“When the wife of Simon Peter returns to Galilee, she brings nothing but her faith in an enigmatic carpenter named Jesus, who has an extraordinary gift of healing the sick,” said Magia. “But as she spends time in the presence of this divine leader, she discovers the gift of healing comes at a devastating cost. A terrible burden Jesus bears for the sake of his love for humanity. Her journey leads her to understand the inevitable price of healing and what it truly means to love.”
The book is full of insights into the culture of the time, family life, social classes, the treatment of women, ancient magic, medicine and healing. Her character, Helen, the magician, brings to life a woman of strength, who uses her knowledge of ancient herbs, as a source of income.
Helen is not a fan of Jesus, who is healing for free. Helen’s knowledge of the ancient arts puts Peter’s wife in great danger.
Magia goes deeper into the story of Jesus as a healer as she takes the words of Isaiah the prophet literally, “Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured.” (Isaiah 53:4) From this point, the book takes off on a deeply profound journey.
Since Magia herself is in the field of medicine, she looks at the diseases in the Bible in a modern light, giving them modern names, describing them in modern terms. She said that this is an important part of the story.
Meg Balter, a fan who attended the Fairfield book signing, said that one of Magia’s greatest strengths is that her work is very sensory, meaning that the reader is taken into the story through Magia’s use of the senses.
The author said that this is important to her storytelling, as she believes the reader should be immersed in her stories through the use of descriptive language.
“I remember the way the Sea of Galilee looked, the smell of olives in the air, how the trees were bent and twisted in Jerusalem,” she said. “I returned to the Middle East to hear the stories, legends, and myths. These are things that are not found in any documents but are such a big part of life.”
Also unique to Magia’s writing is her ability to bring depth to her characters, which is a skill that can be credited to the many places she has visited, her extensive research of historical documents and cultural books and her study of alternate gospels that are outside the traditional canon.
Magia said the story behind the final edition of this trilogy is in her mind, but that the words have yet to come to her.
By day, Magia is an associate director of marketing research in the development of new cancer medications. She is currently based in Boston, but makes many trips to Fairfield to visit her mother and family.
Magia, a Vietnamese-American, was born in Brooklyn and moved to Fairfield as a teenager with her family. As a senior at West Essex High School who always had a love for science and the written word, Magia earned a creative writing scholarship to Drew University, where she studied political theory and chemistry.
She describes herself as a “corporate professional by day and an author of historical fiction by night.” Magia also visits schools to encourage students interested in creative writing to attend workshops and develop their skills.
“I believe that stories are not created but discovered,” said Magia, who also describes herself as a storyteller. “The character spoke to me and her voice was so compelling. I was lucky enough to receive the inspiration and to commit this wonderful story to the page.”
Among her notable awards, Magia was named the 2017 winner of the New England Book Festival, 2017 winner by Reader’s Favorite Magazine, 2018 first place winner by Top Shelf Magazine and 2018 winner of the Catholic Writer’s Guild.
Magia is also a poet and has been published in several literary journals, including the “Michigan Quarterly Review.”
As a teenager, Magia was a talk show host on Comcast’s weekly public access television shows “Teen Talk” and “What’s the Good Word,” which were both produced and directed by the late Sr. Agnes Bernard, OP, of the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell College.
Magia's works can be found at the Fairfield Public Library and are also available on Amazon.