Book Review: ‘Maria, Just Maria’ by Sandhya Mary and Jayasree Kalathil

A Journey of Identity and Connection


Book Title: Maria, Just Maria
Author: Sandhya Mary
Translator: Jayasree Kalathil
Publisher: Harper Perennial India
Number of Pages: 244
ISBN: 978-9356993778
Date Published: Jan. 11, 2024
Price: INR 413

Maria, Just Maria by Sandhya Mary and Jayasree Kalathil Book Cover

Book Review

Maria, Just Maria” by Sandhya Mary, translated from Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil, invites readers into the intricacies of Maria’s world—a journey that defies linear storytelling and mirrors the scatter-brained nature of her existence. From her tender years as a sensitive and intelligent child to the complexities she faces as an adult in her thirties, Maria’s life unfolds against the backdrop of her ancestral home, Kottarathil Veedu.

Within the walls of this familial abode, Maria finds solace in her unique bond with her maternal grandfather, Appachan, whose eccentricities rival her own. Through Appachan’s whimsical tales and the anthropomorphic perspectives of characters like Chandi the dog and Ammini the parrot, the novel weaves a rich tapestry of family history and village life, saturated with color and charm.

Narrated predominantly through the voices of Maria and Appachan, the narrative serves as a poignant reflection of societal binaries and the suffocating confines of conformity. Despite grappling with weighty themes such as identity and societal expectations, Sandhya Mary’s writing style strikes a delicate balance, infusing moments of insight and humor throughout the story.

At the heart of the narrative lies Maria’s decision to embrace silence following her grandfather’s passing—an act imbued with profound symbolism, representing her inner turmoil and quest for self-discovery. As Maria embarks on the journey of reconnecting with reality within the confines of a psychiatric hospital, she is compelled to confront her own sense of identity and belonging amidst a diverse cast of characters and poignant moments.

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Maria, Just Maria” emerges as an insightful and humorous exploration of contemporary society’s norms and contradictions, masterfully translated to resonate with English-speaking audiences by Jayasree Kalathil. While the novel’s leisurely pace may not appeal to all readers and the nuances of translation may pose a slight disconnect for some, its charm and thought-provoking narrative ensure it leaves a lasting impression. Through Maria’s story, readers are invited to ponder the intricacies of human experience long after they have turned the final page.

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