“Pliegos Sueltos” o “María la del Castañar” by Sonia M. Martin unfolds an ancestral tale of deep family values and suffering. An almost eight-year old girl discovers that her name is not María but Debora, as her grandmother María has just revealed to her, whose hidden name is also Debora. Grandmother starts telling the girl about the origin of the family in Chile, when several centuries ago a Crown’s mandate dictated that all Spaniards with Jewish ancestors had to leave the motherland. However, a little Jew girl, Debora, decides to challenge the injunction and to stay in her beloved Spain. Her father, Yoseph, tries to help her and meet his very good friend the Duque de Béjar. The Duque had recently lost her daughter María, and comes to offer Debora to stay with him under certain conditions, from now on she will accept to be called María, make Catholic customs hers, and keep her own ones in absolute secret; in that way the Duque would be able to say she is his own daughter. So, the same day Debora’s family is leaving Spain towards unknown lands, the girl commences a new life, for which she had to assume the proscription of her real name, her religious beliefs and also her real family’s customs; and at the same time, she has entire liberty to continue observing them in privacy, in the intimacy of her own thoughts; and if one day she was mother of a girl, the girl would be officially named María, but, privately and truly, she would be Debora also.
Present time Debora-María is deeply thrilled by this revelation. She would ask her grandmother one question after the other now. Her grandmother advises her to develop a discipline in writing; but the girl is much more motivated by the plays and all events that use to occur on stage. Present time Debora-María lives in a charming world, and her mother happily cheers the close and warm relation between her daughter and her own mother, something that seems it would last forever but that the current events along the country start cracking menacingly.
With the use of a very appropriate style, Sonia M. Martin, with no intromissions of any kind, takes us along the Debora-María’s day-to-day path of occurrences that the girl and her grandmother live in the monastery they have lived in since always. The reader will know about the knitting of socks, the fig tree where a headless ghost use to show up, the practicing with Debora-María and the very talented cloth-washer woman’s daughter for the tell-stories contest. The book comes to its end and the reader wants to know more, desiring the tale had not finished today, but kept going for the sole happiness of the reading.
The English version of this book will be available soon.
Board Director of SELC & CII – California Latin American Writers Society and Internet International Chapter
December 16, 2007