What the critics say about The Book of Mary…
"The image of Mary depicted by Sobat is not the
virginal, devoted, passive creature that has been upheld by Christian
society as the universal mother figure in the Madonna-Whore dichotomy.
Rather, this Mary is both mother and whore; this Mary is a sexually
passionate, doubtful, active feminist who faces issues from STDs to
cross-dressing.... [The Book of Mary] contains progressive
ideas and basic information about the Gospel without the built-in patriarchal
narrative, which has served only to undermine women for far too long."
"What [Sobat] has done here is really mix very good
historical record... with sort of a contemporary voice....A very, very
enjoyable, wonderful look, an imagined life of Mary."
"From the first pages of the novel, the reader is
introduced to a Mary who defies the traditional Christian portrayal
of the Virgin Mary as a symbol of piety. Mary is 14 when she pens her
first journal entry onto scrolls received as a birthday gift. She reveals
typical modern-day concerns of young women her age despondency, sexuality
and body image in a blunt, modern-day vernacular coupled with historical
references....Sobat's The Book of Mary is a subversive and irreverent
feminist rendition of the life of Mary of Nazareth. While the premise
is outrageous and certain to offend some, the book should not be read
as a religious attack....Sobat offers us her version as an alternative
to the status quo."
"The Book of Mary reminds us of the vastly
different worlds that exist beyond our own. By placing a character
who closely resembles your average Western teenage girl, in a culture
that may not be familiar to her readers, the author effectively closes
the potential distance between subject and audience."
"Sobat's prose is concise and poetic, at times sexy,
and always quite human. And it is Mary's humanization that stands as
the book's strongest point. Close second is Sobat's capacity to explain
away the mystical elements of Christianity and Christ and portray a
Mary who is full of aspirations and limited by social codes of acceptability....
[The Book of Mary is] a story of longings for freedom, of
ingenuity in the face of adversity, of the strength of community, and
of how an individual's contribution can change the world - for better
or for worse."
“[The Book of Mary is] a wonderful, controversial, thought-provoking novel that takes Christianity and shakes the hell out of it. Literally.
“At first, true to the spirit of a rebellious teenager, the writing is snarky and often hilarious. Mary’s description of riding across the desert with her new husband, Joseph, who is not terribly bright: ‘I have a pain in the ass from riding one and being married to another.’ In Bethlehem the three wise men she meets are characterized as the three ‘wise guys’, straight out of a Martin Scorsese film, complete with Brooklyn accents.
“However, as the book progresses and Mary ages, the tone matures with her. One of the lovely aspects of this novel is how it not only grows on you, but that it grows, period. As Mary would say, just like a person already. The hilarity of the opening third of the novel evolves into a more deeply felt narrative as Jesus is born and grows up believing the crazy story mommy spread about him being the Son of God. Meanwhile, it is Mary herself who is the healer. In fact, she opens up a hospital, becomes a midwife and...
“Gail Sidonie Sobat has written a remarkable novel. It is like its human narrator, growing from adolescence to maturity as it progresses. Yes, you already know how some of the book ends. Her son Jesus’ story is well known, the meshegunner rabble rouser. What you do not know are the funny, insightful, dramatic twists she creates to make the reader think about what religion is all about, what responsibility is all about, what--well, pretty much, by the time she is done, what pretty much everything is all about.
“This is what ‘underground’ literature should be
and what mainstream literature all too often avoids. Sidonie Sobat
takes on patriarchy, Christianity, medicine, life responsibilities,
family relationships, commercialism, social politics, political politics--you
name it---and turns them all on their ears stunningly, leaving
the reader with a lifetime's experience to think about. But this
is no polemic (although, it gets close at times, and, frankly, guys
don't turn out to be that wise). It is very entertaining, funny, dramatic,
profoundly involving, and certainly worth the scheckels.”
[The Book of Mary] is a story of a
girl becoming a woman and coming into her own, refusing to buckle before
authority, no matter how harsh and domineering that authority might
be. Sobat repeatedly reminds us that in Mary's day, women were stoned
on a routine basis. This is, in theory, what kindles Mary's crazy
story about a virginal conception. What is so hard to believe, however,
is that she actually gets away with it, or with the pseudo hospital
and spiritual home for women that she supposedly builds, and which
survives, despite the harsh patriarchal rule of law. However, the more
I read, the more entranced I became. Sobat is a good story teller,
and her Mary becomes a character that it is hard not to fall in love
with. And the fact that Sobat comes up with her own version of the
story told for 2,000 years becomes rather fascinating. We all know
how this one is going to end. But it is the question of what happens
to Mary, not to Jesus, that kept this reader turning the page.