Fleeing Orion the Hunter, the biblical figure of Eve is carried away by a river of stars to another Heaven where unfamiliar, female-inspired constellations are visible. In her visionary first novel, Storace (Sugar Cane: A Caribbean Rapunzel, 2007, etc.) gives voice to the stories behind four of them, tales of women dwelling in different yet not unfamiliar worlds of oppression and submission.
Stupendously imagined and detailed, occasionally didactic and dense, Storace’s descriptions of the four women’s lives that inspired these unknown star formations are filled with distantly recognizable tribes, beliefs, dynasties and social systems. The Knife is the tale of Souraya, whose marriage teaches her harsh lessons of love and betrayal. Finally a mother, she must wield a blade to save her child. The Cauldron introduces a slave, Savour, whose brilliant culinary talents help her survive imperialists, despots and genocide. The story of the Paradise Nebula portrays Rain, whose enforced prostitution teaches her to hate, to dance and to find the will to save innocence, leading to claims she is a deity. The fourth constellation, The Lovers’ Cluster, is devoted to Princess Sheba. Several of the stories are modeled on Old Testament figures; all recount lavishly complicated regimes in which the women suffer intensely but where their isolation can result in extraordinary acts.
Storace’s striking feminist mythopoeic work offers provocative alternatives in beautifully crafted prose.