Pilgrim Maya tells the story of a woman who has suffered the kind of devastating loss that could easily destroy the rest of her life – or transform her into a powerful force for love and healing. With such high stakes, plus the lucid voice of its first-person narrator, this novel has the essential ingredients for an uplifting and engrossing read. Besides offering illuminating glimpses into the paradoxical “Oneness of Everything,” its characters and communities have dedicated themselves to awakening in sometimes novel and surprising ways. The Pilgrim is a testament to the creativity and kindness of one’s fellow pilgrims on the path to redemption. Recommended for seekers!
Barbara McHugh, author of the award-winning novel Bride of the Buddha
Pilgrim Maya blends fact and fiction in just the right portions, with scenes in San Francisco, Japan, Oregon and Washington, places like Mount Tamalpais and the SoMa Zen Center, and with a lively variety of parties, music, and philosophy. After each chapter, I found myself eager to meet the next characters Maya would encounter on her path to healing.
This pilgrimage begins in a therapist’s office, where a woman, Maya Marinovich, has been seeking help with the everlasting grief following the death of her husband and baby. Her soul is as shriveled as the leaves a cold November wind is blowing through the streets of Boston. But keep reading! True to the title, a half-dozen pages later, a journey has begun, and we’re on the sunny streets of San Francisco. Soon Maya’s thoughts become more compelling, her voice intimate, and it’s easy to be seduced along with her as she struggles past it’s “too weird” or “too far outside my world” into lifestyles and communities never before encountered: a charismatic leader of a tribe of Japanese Jews is followed by the creative chaos of the Bon Vivants (“Are you OK with wild?”). She moves from one to another without leaving anyone behind but rather adding layers of experience (including surfing). After being asked “Which Maya are you?” she follows a path of deep meditation, Zen, martial arts and Involved Buddhism. “I have no religious leanings,” Maya says at the outset, yet at the end she arrives at a sacred place as an enlightened believer in mercy and compassion. “Pilgrim Maya” is a fascinating peregrination, an open-hearted “private journal” of a woman who dispels guilt, accepts life as wabi-sabi, sees the beauty of transience and imperfection, and relishes the delights of her body and mind.
Pat Ryan’s reviews and articles have appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, where she was an editor in the Culture Department. Her short stories have been published in the literary journals Chautauqua, American Writers Review, The Ghost Story and The Hopper.
Pilgrim Maya moves, at first by a kind of blind instinct, impelled by trauma and grief, through a remarkable, almost mythical set of experiences. Each brings her in touch with teachers who help her find her way back home: home to her body, home to her creativity, home to her spirituality, home to her will to live.
Jan Maher, Author of Earth As It Is Kirkus Best Indies 2017 and Heaven, Indiana, Kirkus Best Indies 2018.
Recommended for a broad audience of readers, from those interested in novels of growth and adventure to discussion groups that would focus on Maya’s progressive journeys as a touch point for not just recovery from grief or loss, but opportunities for transcendence and new purpose.
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
The vivid story of a woman determined not only to survive but to thrive. Rich with cinematic detail and sensibility, it’s a big novel that invites the reader along on Maya’s episodic journey toward the joyful sense of life she seeks.
Katherine Weber, author of Still Life With Monkey, True Confections, Triangle, and four other works of fiction, as well as a memoir
“I want to disappear altogether …” So muses Maya, the first-person protagonist of Pilgrim Maya, the powerful new novel by Bela Breslau and Stephen Billias. No one has more reason to wish herself out of existence than Maya, who lives in the aftermath of unspeakable loss. Husband-and-wife coauthors Breslau and Billias plumb the depth of Maya’s loss without sending her so deeply into her grief that she loses herself. Seemingly random bursts of humane humor mitigate spirals of despair. Her journey isn’t easy or predictable, but Pilgrim Maya is a book that earns its readers’ trust through a realism that is powerfully raw, affecting, hopeful, and, above all, true to human experience.
Breslau and Billias guide us through Maya’s life with natural, expressive dialogue and internal monologues that show how compelling excellent fiction writing can be. The contrast between Maya’s day-to-day isolation and the memories of love and connections propel us along with the protagonist in ways that lift this novel well beyond sentimental platitudes and into the realm of deeply affecting literature. Breslau and Billias gift us with storytelling at its best. Readers may find themselves disappearing into Maya’s life, but Pilgrim Maya will likely not fade from our memory for a long time to come.
John Sheirer, author of Stumbling Through Adulthood: Linked Stories