Jen and Lena: How Kathleen McGowan’s novels changed my life

“I have loved you before I love you today and I will love you again. The time returns.” – Kathleen McGowan The Expected One

It’s been nearly a year and a half since my older sister passed, and she’s been on my mind and in my dreams more often than not lately. Jen was a vocal champion of women’s issues, a passion that began at the age of five when she discovered that women couldn’t be priests in the Catholic Church. Her spiritual journey moved on quickly from Christianity while mine flourished. We were opposites in many ways yet we maintained a strong bond for most of our life together. She was my smart, beautiful, vocal sister and I adored her.


Four years age difference separated us yet we were oddly close despite our wide gap in personality, spirituality, and life perspective. She relished confrontation and speaking up and out when she perceived the world moved backwards in women’s rights issues. I, on the other hand, withdrew from confrontation and felt uncomfortable discussing politics or religion.

Jen’s love of history and strong “sixth” sense led her to read fiction that featured women in history who were frequently persecuted for daring to act or speak in a way that the male-centered power structure felt threatened by. So it’s no surprise that she stumbled upon Kathleen McGowan’s novel The Expected One – a story which depicted Mary Magdalene in a way that differed greatly from Catholicism’s teachings. She passed the novel on to me, certain that I’d enjoy it as much as she had. She was right, and I don’t think I ever told her how that gift changed the course of my life for the better.

In The Expected One and the books that followed, I finally discovered spirituality as I always believed it was intended to be. For most of my life I felt guided by my spirit, more so than my physical body. I couldn’t always express this sense that there was more to this life than our daily routines and tasks, more than money, power, and politics. That sense of something more is likely why Catholicism became my home from a very young age. I connected very strongly to its mystical foundation – magic, miracles, angels, saints and hope. It’s central figure that of a deity who inspired kindness, unconditional love, compassion, and empathy. I felt more connected to Mother Mary than the men – likely because of her depiction as a kind, nurturing woman who endured unspeakable pain. And yet she moved forward, with a heart that though broken remained full of love.

And yet, as I looked deeper into my religion from an adult’s third eye, I saw holes in the dogma’s aura – gaps in the rules, “laws”, and real world beliefs that varied significantly from what I believed Jesus was really trying to teach us. Catholicism no longer housed my spiritual needs though I carried with me the mystical elements that spoke to me so.

When I read all three of the novels in Kathleen’s “Magdalene” series I finally felt a spiritual home – understood and empowered. While reading each novel there were so many times my eyes welled with tears of fulfillment as I thought, “This…this is what I’ve always believed. This expresses spirituality in the way that connects with my soul.” I recall the distinct moment when Kathleen described “infusion” in The Poet Prince. Finally, someone linked art and spirituality as two parts of a whole; one essential to the other.

The arts saved my life on many occasions, providing comfort, clarity, and healing. Whether it’s the energy that fills me when I sing, the excitement as my pen dances across the page, or the sense of home as an overture plays in a Broadway house I am an artist guided by a strong spiritual connection; I am an Artistic Spirit.

I am forever grateful to Kathleen McGowan for her writings and to my sister for passing them on to me. The ideals and perspectives she describes in her novels continue to inspire and motivate me to live my life in a more complete Way.

I have no doubt that I will see my sister again one day, but until then I will keep writing, asking spiritual questions, and championing those like Kathleen whose work lifts us up instead of knocking us down.

IMG_3697*Learn more about Kathleen McGowan’s fiction, and non-fiction, by visiting her website.*


Published by Kelly Deeny

I am a writer, singer, jewelry designer, and theatre enthusiast. I use various forms of artistic expression for personal reflection, community discussion and creative inspiration. My premiere novel encapsulates all of the above. Follow along on my journey towards an artistic career!

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