In the first decades of the 20th century, an Okinawan girl learns what she needs to fulfill her destiny as a High Born One and become a Bodhisattva.
Sankey’s debut novel appears to be the middle volume of a projected trilogy. This volume takes place from 1902 to 1917 in a small village in the north of Okinawa, where Mahataa is born into a family that is financially poor but spiritually rich. At her birth, she makes an extraordinary cry that signals her high spiritual destiny; however, she must be trained carefully to fulfill it. Mahataa learns her family lore from her great-grandmother Hanaa, who is a shamanic storyteller, and is trained in meditation and tai chi by an old Taoist monk; in her native religion by the spirit of the Noro, or High Priestess, who possesses a local woman to transmit her knowledge; in prophecy and the use of the I Ching by the Yuta, or local soothsayer (a role that, at that time, was outlawed by the Japanese government); and in herbal medicine and acupuncture by the Yabuu, or medicine woman. Meanwhile, her best friend, a boy named En, is on his own spiritual path, which includes an episode of disappearance into another world under the influence of a mysterious scroll that Hanaa had left in Mahataa’s care. This is, essentially, a didactic book, presenting the essence of everything that Mahataa learns as she learns it; it’s something of a drawback for a novel when the main character’s life path is to detach herself from the kind of emotional drama that constitutes the basis of traditional Western plots. One cannot help but suspect that the first volume, in which Mahataa, in a previous life, commits the kinds of karmic sins that she has overcome in intervening lives, and the final one, in which she uses what she learns here in a later life, will be more exciting.
Dispassionately explores how various Eastern disciplines can intersect and overlap.