JAGUAR, MY TWIN by Betty Jean Lifton


Email this review


Essentially this is one of those managed stories of/1976 children-of-other-lands, designed less for aesthetic impact than to evoke sympathy for (and at best identification with) their different ways of life. As Lifton introduces Zinacentec Indian Shun, he is trying ""to concentrate on selling his flowers on that remote mountain road in Southeast Mexico""--hardly the way he would describe the location, and in the same sentence she tidily introduces the supernatural beliefs that are central to the story: "". . . his mind kept returning to the night before when his soul was out visiting."" But this is a didactic visit with a difference, for not only are we exposed to Shun's belief that each person has a twin animal spirit kept by the gods in a heavenly corral (his is a jaguar), but, when a neighbor who resents Shun's father goes to an evil shaman for revenge, we see the belief being corroborated. The gods are actually persuaded (with candies and rum) to let Shun's jaguar spirit out of his corral and, as a direct consequence of this, Shun does fall gravely ill. What's more, the elaborate curing ceremony--involving pilgrimages, candles, prayers, much rum (for both gods and people), and dead chickens--does work, because through it the good shaman induces the gods to rescue the wandering jaguar. Thus, even though Lifton's telling lacks the power to make the gods and spirits live for us, by accepting their reality and importance she brings us that much closer to Shun.

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 1976
Publisher: Atheneum