|Michelle Miller Allen: Journey from the Keep of Bones|
Amador Publishers (Trade Paperback), ISBN 0-938513-36-2
Two shaman brothers sit Watching the Water to induce a trance. Tyrannical, they ruled the village where men dominate -- women don't merit personal names or basic human rights. Seeking enlightenment, Ku-en enters the water and disappears, entrusting the village and his wife to his brother. Betrayed by his brother, Ku-en's spirit makes De-jah promise to enter the future as women. The two shaman brothers and their wives emerge in contemporary New Mexico where they are scattered, searching for each other to solve the riddles of the forgotten past.
At 42, Maxine feels her biological clock winding down with the succession of six-month relationships. Dissatisfied with the instablility of her life, she longs for security and a warm embrace. A paralegal for a divorce attorney in Albuquerque, Maxine analyzes domestic disputes and knows the numbers. She meets with Travis Dylan through an encounter group in Sante Fe. Practicing relationship exercises from a workbook for dysfunctional adults, they explore personal intimacy while in search for the perfect partner, not realizing their connections with each other extend to the distant past.
Adrienne Manfred, a new client, arrives at Maxine's office, demanding a simple divorce settlement from her affluent husband. Determined to cut strings, Adrienne insists that liberation equates to self-reliance. Returning to her previous profession, she paints dream portraits, revealing the secret pasts of the other characters.
Working late one night, Maxine receives news of a client's death, shot by the cops. Conner McKnight, the client's reclusive heir, best friend -- and the final member of the reborn quartet -- wants to retain Maxine's employer to investigate his friend's death. Frustrated by her latest affair and unable to sleep, Maxine delivers the paperwork to McKnight en route to Adrienne's with a food processor.
Adrienne, receptive to the psychic phenomena, sees her subjects in dreams and meets them coincidentally as their past lives are revealed to her. Maxine, Conner and Travis all emerge in surrealistic paintings. Intrigued by New Age Culture, Maxine agrees to meet "Light the Channeler" -- Adrienne's counselor. Light sees the past lives of her clients, and how the four will interact as a result of accidental causes: a telephone call, a cast, a knife catalyze the action of the complicated drama affecting their lives.
Through the use of a split stage, Miller Allen achieves dramatic suspension as she alternates chapters between the ancient and contemporary world while examining the role of women in society. Through the use of dream fragments and symbolic associations, Miller Allen interweaves the past with contemporary. By mixing mythic elements and universal symbols, the novel is lifted from a simple boy-girl story through metaphor to allegory even as it examines controversial themes. This book makes for a great late night discussion over a beer or cup of coffee.
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