The Book of Mary

by Gail Sidonie Sobat
251 pages,
ISBN: 1894549546

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Review of The Book of Mary
by Nancy Wigston

The Book of Mary by Gail Sidonie Sobat (Sumach Press, 251 pages, $ 16.95, paper, ISBN: 1894549546). Forget the Holy Virgin. This often hilarious, outrageously revisionist history of the mother of Jesus portrays Mary as a foul-mouthed Nazarene Valley Girl who matures into a Biblical wise woman. We meet her first as she sneaks out at night to meet her hottie, Jeremiah. When she learns he is married¨and a drug dealer to boot¨the pregnant teenager fakes a miraculous impregnation for "Joseph the nebbish," the credulous carpenter who longs to marry her. (The Yiddish that sprinkles the text is frequently silly, but may be designed to lighten the narrative's blasphemous load.)
Before you can say "Messiah", Mary's lie, approved by her mother, catches fire. After a trip to Bethlehem ("I have a pain in the ass from riding one and being married to another") and a birth in a barn (the motels are full, due to a rug dealers' convention) three strangers arrive, but they sound more like wise guys than wise men, since they're pals of Jeremiah, the true father, who remains a supporter throughout Mary's life. There's an undeniable charm in this outspoken Mary. "Very, very funny God. Just what do you have in store for me Mary, your handmaid?"
Quite a lot, as it happens. A Persian friend who runs a bar/brothel introduces her to the "Sisters of the Eastern Star", a far-flung group with knowledge about healing, life, death, and Greek philosophy. Although Mary feels remorseful about many things that happen¨like Herod's mass killings of infant Jewish boys¨she ages into a still-sexy Jewish mother, returning to Nazareth to open a place of healing (and orphanage) called Wellhouse. Lots of action and a colourful cast enliven this epistolary telling of the Mary story, which reads like a Young Adult novel, with a wink at Old Adults who'll appreciate Sobat's fresh slant on Biblical lore.

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