SHAKKAI by Lynn V. Andrews


Women of the Sacred Garden
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 In a bizarre addition to her Sisters of the Shield series (The Woman of Wyrrd, 1990, etc.), Andrews recounts her ``spiritual'' adventures in a future life as a young Japanese woman, an acolyte of Shakkai, keeper of the sacred gardens--an image of nature, its healing power, and the inner female life. Encouraged by her longtime spiritual guides, the indefatigable Cree women Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs, Andrews ``double dreams'' herself back and forth between her cabin in Manitoba and a Japanese countryside. In Japan, through Shakkai, she meets a demonic ``tea master'' who is jealous of her writing, and acquires a hu, a gourd resembling Agnes's ``celestial rattle''--a symbol of inner power, the ``uterus of all life,'' a ``universal womb'' that rather lewdly resembles a phallus. She also acquires a samurai lover who is about to decapitate her at both the beginning and end of the book--a brutal and totally mysterious action that, like their coupling, her vomiting, and her eating beef jerky and sharing a Coke and a sandwich with a couple of sorcerers, seems to contradict the spirituality, beauty, and peace she claims to have derived from her experience. Indeed, whatever Andrews's enlightenment consisted of, it did not include the power of speech: the stilted dialogue, the ``pigeon'' English of her various teachers, the clichÇs in which they express their message--all recall at best the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Without illumination or even casual connection, Andrews's odyssey comes off more like a psychotic episode than a spiritual journey, displaying apparent dissociation, dislocation, a disordered sense of time, hallucinations, and an inability--or at least unwillingness--to distinguish fantasy from reality.

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 1992
ISBN: 0-06-016711-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1992