Megan Campisi comes to the blog with one of the more unique, dark and eerie historic fictions that I’ve ever read with
Let’s start with an explanation: a sin eater is a woman, shunned from society and performs the ritual of consuming a meal, thus the sins of the dead, taking on those sins as a way to atone for their own. Our story starts with fourteen year old May, marked for the task after stealing a loaf of bread after she was orphaned. The setting is England, and roughly comparative to Tudor times with the Catholic purge, the Protestant reformation and the subsequent upheaval throughout the country when fear was rampant, death close to hand, and people, all people were looking for a ‘connection’ to understand their place in the world.
Comparisons of this book run to Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, with twists from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland – and I’ll say that the connections that fit for me were the ‘position’ of women in society and the clever and often surreal feel to the tale – but I didn’t find it directly correlative. But on to the story: May, as a Sin Eater is not to be noticed or seen, speak not, never be touched, and constantly presented with foodstuffs that are meant to represent, and thus remove through her consumption, the sins of the dead. Thought to be a direct pathway to Eve, the original sinner, the life is difficult, particularly so for May who was known for her chattering on about any and every thing she notices. May’s internal dialog is the narrative voice of the story: with her questions, her snide comments and thoughts, and even moments that feel hopeful buried in the bleakness that is her situation.
“Apprenticed” to another Sin Eater, marked with a collar and tattoo on her tongue, she’s expected (we can only glean this information from the story) learn by watching: until her ‘mentor’ refuses a ‘meal’ and is summarily executed for failing in her duty. From here, it becomes May’s task, self-assigned, to discover who was responsible for the uneaten meal, and why such a thing was done. This brings us to the search and her constant efforts to untangle the web of lies, manipulation and secrets – secrets which, as a Sin Eater used to spending time with the dying and hearing their sins have even her surprised. May was wonderfully complex, caught in a task she didn’t ask for and keeping herself amused with descriptions and names for the people she encounters, discovering the dark underside of human nature, and finding her own place in the strangely isolated existence she’s been placed in. There are places where the story feels repetitive as May’s days are very ‘samey-samey’, but the twists, when they come are fast and hard, with a particular ‘never saw that coming’ ending that was both fitting and wholly unexpected despite several ways I had in my head that suggested where the story would go. Want something all-encompassing and utterly unique? This is the story…..
Title: Sin Eater
Author: Megan Campisi
Genre: 16th Century, Elizabethan, Historic Elements, Historic Woman's Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery Elements, Setting: Britain, Sociological Relevancy, Tudor
Published by: Atria Books
Published on: 7 April, 2020
Audio Length: 9 Hours
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
The Handmaid’s Tale meets Alice in Wonderland in this gripping and imaginative historical novel about a shunned orphan girl in 16th-century England who is ensnared in a deadly royal plot and must turn her subjugation into her power.
The Sin Eater walks among us, unseen, unheard
Sins of our flesh become sins of Hers
Following Her to the grave, unseen, unheard
The Sin Eater Walks Among Us.
For the crime of stealing bread, fourteen-year-old May receives a life sentence: she must become a Sin Eater—a shunned woman, brutally marked, whose fate is to hear the final confessions of the dying, eat ritual foods symbolizing their sins as a funeral rite, and thereby shoulder their transgressions to grant their souls access to heaven.
Orphaned and friendless, apprenticed to an older Sin Eater who cannot speak to her, May must make her way in a dangerous and cruel world she barely understands. When a deer heart appears on the coffin of a royal governess who did not confess to the dreadful sin it represents, the older Sin Eater refuses to eat it. She is taken to prison, tortured, and killed. To avenge her death, May must find out who placed the deer heart on the coffin and why.
A copy of this title was provided via for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.