In Elizabeth Berg's lyrical recasting of the story of Mary and Joseph, The Handmaid and the Carpenter, we are reminded that the parents of Jesus were a startlingly young, humble couple. Deeply in love, they are struggling to understand the mystery of what visiting angels have told them: that Mary will bear the Son of God.

Berg, the author of more than a dozen novels including the 2000 Oprah Book Club selection Open House, brings remarkable freshness and respect to one of the most told, most beloved stories in human history. Her Mary and Joseph are devoted partners, but in awe of the idea that they've been chosen to bring forth a savior. What shall I make of these exotic fabulations? Joseph asks his wife. For, in truth, these things seem more fit for stories that children might tell than as direction for our lives. A quietly joyful take on the Immaculate Conception, Berg's graceful story breathes new life into an ancient tale.

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