Spiritual and cultural beliefs blossom into a celebration of life—at least until the darkness of fear and ruthlessness of the earthmother rip apart a homeland and a cherished way of life.
This mesmerizing, aching tale explores ancient beliefs in gods and nature and their impact on an Aegean island society in the Bronze Age. Told through the viewpoint of highborn maiden Leira as she prepares for the Learning—a rite of passage in which girls become women—Orr’s prose paints delicate brush strokes to illustrate the beauty and brutality of coming-of-age and of losing yourself to find out who you really are. The Swallow Clan lives on a volcanic island in the Mediterranean, where they make offerings, even sacrifices, to gods and goddesses to show gratitude for life and bounty. But when the earth “belches” and the ground begins to shake, all the plans and anticipation Leira has for her future fracture, crumbling like the land beneath her feet. Orr nimbly shows Leira’s imperiousness and her humanity alike as the girl witnesses the jarring shift in order when once-exalted priests and priestesses find themselves cast adrift. Her mixture of prose and free verse to tell Leira’s story is lyrical and magnetic—and devastating.
Not for readers searching for a simple or happy journey, this is a beautiful song of a book that shows that life isn’t always fair, but change is always constant. (Historical fiction. 10-14)