The Child Goddess

The Child Goddess was published in May of 2004, in hardcover. The mass market paperback came out in June of 2005.

Winner of the 2005 Endeavour Award

About the Book

From the book cover:

A priest of the Order of Mary Magdalene and a skilled anthropologist, Isabel Burke has been called offworld to the barren planet of Virimund. The ExtraSolar Corporation, developing Virimund as an energy source, has encountered an ‘incident’ that has stopped their work. It seems there are people on Virimund after all–descendants of an emigrant ship that left Earth three hundred years before. And something has changed them.

There are children born on Virimund who do not age. Upon discovery, these lost souls are sent to an island where they live by themselves, ashamed that they will never become truly human. One of these children has been captured by ExtraSolar, which hopes to discover the secret to her ageless existence. Under constant examination and study, the girl has yet to utter a single word. For ExtraSolar, she is a resource to be used and discarded. But for Isabel, she is an innocent who needs help.

Now, against those who would sacrifice the child in their quest for power, Isabel must fight a desperate battle to protect a little girl who may hold the keys to life itself…”

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Praise for The Child Goddess from Connie Willis:
“When you read the first few pages . . . you think you’re headed into familiar SF territory. You couldn’t be more wrong. The place you’re going, under Louise Marley’s gifted guidance, is one you’ve never been before: a world of troubling mysteries and even more troubling answers, of lost colonies and lost souls. It’s a revelation. And a journey you won’t want to miss.”

From Publishers Weekly:
Initially a conventional first-contact story, Marley’s sensitive, lyrical SF novel, set on 23rd-century Earth and the oceanic world Virimund, swiftly evolves into a meditation intertwining spiritual values, godhood itself and romantic love. . . the book treats feminism’s central issues gently, skirting the strident swamps of passion and the fatal abyss of sentimentality, with tender insights into love and sacrifice all too rare today.

PW, April 12, 2004

From the Barnes & Noble SF Editor:
Louise Marley’s powefully edifying science fiction thriller pits a woman priest against a corporation bent on using an idyllic oceanic planet as an energy-producing power park, and determined to exploit a group of extraordinary children from a lost colony. . . Like Marley’s other novels, The Child Goddess is a passionate and deeply spiritual story powred by her adept characterization. Marley crafts realistic, three-dimensional characters that readers can’t help but empthize with. If famed Trappist monk and poet Thomas Merton ever wrote science fiction, it would resemble a Marley novel.

Paul Goat Allen

From The Seattle Times:
Because it is set more than 300 years in the future and its characters undertake intersteallar travel, Louise Marley’s seventh novel, The Child Goddess, is classed as science fiction. In other respects it is a literary novel, with characters whose inner struggles are as important as the plot. There is enough of the latter to satisfy hard-core fans of the genre who like a healthy dose of speculative science to go with offworld settings. . . Marley . . . has the gift of tackling deep issues in the context of a compelling story.

Deloris Tarzan Ament, May 16, 2004

From Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine:
Isabel is an extraordinary character, torn between faith and love, duty and sacrifice. Oa is also a fascinating creation: a young girl who has lived more than a century but remains a child. Marley describes this futuristic Earth with just enough detail to bring it alive without overwhelming the reader. An exploration of the mysteries and complications of being human disguised as a science-fiction adventure, this is a novel not to be missed.

May, 2004

From The Davis Enterprise:
Personal journey sagas are the hardest to tell, because they take place almost exclusively in the character’s mind. But when they’re told well, such tales are truly memorable. Louise Marley has taken an intense personal growth tale and infused it with quiet energy in the understated The Child Goddess . . . The novel’s power lies in this low-key approach. Isabel is a character with flaws, some close to the surface and some more deeply hidden. But she deals with those inner problems with a compelling grace and dignity.

From Booklist:
Marley attacks the problems she poses satisfactorily, with a well-placed plot and characterizations, in particular, that are engaging even amid the tangle of interpersonal relations.

From Agony Column:
The Child Goddess is an engaging story that one cannot help feeloing compelled to read. Louise Marley writes in an easy-going style and has a true gift for story-telling. She also aims to deal with some hard issues . . . this does nothing to detract from the success of this novel; it is science fiction at its most appealing–light on the science and heavy on the fiction.

Katie Dean

From BookPage:
In The Child Goddess, Marley brings together religious and medical ethics and asks what we want from the universe and how far we are willing to go to get it. This interesting novel will generate much discussion among readers.

From Elliott Bay Book Company Booknotes:
. . . This is a tender story, filled with images of religious faith, romantic love and its disappointments, haunting loss, and new interpretations of just what it means to be human–to possess a soul. Local author Marley is at the peak of her form. Her universe is internally consistent–while this isn’t a sequel, characters refer to events in previous novels. . . The Child Goddess is a tour de force of soft science fiction.


From The Pilot Newspaper:
. . . Not just a science fiction adventure, this story also touches on themes of duty, honor and love without attempting to provide answers for any of those questions.

Lisa Deas

From Challenging Destiny:
. . . The Child Goddess has a wonderful core of sf that follows Orson Scott Card and Ursula K. Le Guin . . . The book also features strong characterization and intensely felt personal dilemmas. . . It would be fabulous if all science fiction books had characterization as good as this book.

From Italics:
As always, Marley writes with an insight that makes for compelling reading. The book’s messages are timeless and timely. And as a bonus for Marley readers, The Child Goddess fits in with the universe introduced in The Terrorists of Irustan . . . John Jude Palencar lends his talents to the cover, as he did with The Terrorists of Irustan . . . It’s a beauty, inside and out.

Elise Tobler


Background and Other Interesting Notes

Mother Isabel Burke is a member of the Priestly Order of Mary Magdalene, an order of celibate women priests devoted to the search for truth in all things. Mary Magdalene is their patroness because she was a woman maligned by untruths for centuries.

Oa of Virimund has her ancestral roots in the African country of Mali, a region called Sikasso, where French is spoken along with Bambara, a dialect of Mandikan, which is the unofficial language of Mali.

The liturgical calendar used by Isabel is based on the one in use today in the United States. Liturgical calendars change over the years, and according to the region and its ethnicity. Probably in half a millennium, the calendar would change, but except for the addition of the solemnity of Saint Teresa of Calcutta (who is not yet in actuality a saint) the calendar has been used as it currently exists.

For more information on fact, speculation, and research about this mysterious and intriguing woman, here are some resources to seek out:

  • Mary Magdalene
    A website full of pictures, links, quotes.
  • Mary Magdalene, Beyond the Myth, by Esther de Boer.
    An exploration by a Dutch writer of the facts and the fiction surrounding Mary Magdalene.
    Another exhaustive website with information on a host of fascinating topics, including a “Body of Myth” section.
  • Mary, Called Magdalene, Margaret George.
    A highly individualistic fictional interpretation of the Magdalene story, rich with convincing historical detail.
  • The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, translated from the Coptic by Jean-Yves LeLoup.
    The Gospel of Mary was discovered in 1896 in Cairo, fifty years before the Nag Hammadi discovery of the Gnostic Gospels.  This is fascinating reading, with in-depth commentary, and is important in understanding what is actually known and simply surmised—or invented, as in the best-selling Da Vinci Code—about the historical Mary of Magdala.