Book Review: Autumnal Dancer—ancient culture calls to a woman of destiny
By Susan Johnson
Can a woman whose past holds deep, dark secrets and painful memories of abuse reach out to embrace an unclear destiny that marks her as a child of promise?
In Autumnal Dancer (PublishAmerica, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-4489-3886-5), Mandy Nachampassack-Maloney weaves a story of mysterious ancient origins conflicting with modern intellectualism as pagan culture clashes with an ecclesiastical, unforgiving religion.
The tale begins in the distant past when, according to the promo, “a young woman who has recently been coroneted as the religious leader of her pagan people has a prophetic and frightening vision of the future that is certain to befall her gentle clan. She sees that a new, massively peopled faith is going to overtake the land her own people inhabit and make them choose between conversion or death. She knows the near future cannot be altered.”
That is when she makes a courageous decision to affect the distant future and save the remnants of her family and the people she loves. In a move of desperation, one of her own grandchildren is given up to the powers of prophecy and magical might. Will this child be able to face the terrors and hardships that are sure to come?
Many young people embark on a college course of study to find themselves, but just when Evenarri seems to find her niche, she is drawn inexorably back to another time, another place, and a woman named Cairistine. This woman, the last of her line as a harvest witch in a pagan society, beckons to the confused young woman, begging her to help her people, reaching down through the ages.
The connection to the past is a young man named River, whom Evenarri meets at the college. As their relationship develops, she is drawn, almost in spite of her misgivings, to him and his family. With her background of abuse in a foster family, her own heritage is open to dispute. She has many questions and doubts about her own abilities and what is expected of her. Some of the questions are gradually answered by her association with River and his family, but the new links she forges also awaken new fears and anxieties. Finally, she is faced with a choice: run away from an upsetting situation not of her making, or become part of a line of magical succession that calls to her across the centuries, knowing she will face religious opposition.
In this novel, archaeology becomes a means of transportation back to a time when nature and magic were joined, in which mysterious, whispering voices call out to the people in the present. We see some discomforting echoes of the Inquisition or the Crusades as the heroine is severely tested. The young woman Evenarri is torn between two opposite forces. Can they ever be reconciled? Will she find her true destiny?
Mandy Nachampassack-Maloney is a 21-year-old interfaith minister who lives in the Rockford area. According to the promo, she dedicates this book and further works to the one in four women who become survivors of sexual assault and to her husband.
As the press release says: “PublishAmerica is a traditional publishing company whose primary goal is to encourage and promote the works of new, previously undiscovered writers. … Its books are available through all bookstores.” Autumnal Dancer may also be ordered through Amazon.com.
From the Sept. 22-28, 2010 issue
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