Tuesday, April 21, 2020

"Sin Eater"

Megan Campisi is a playwright, novelist, and teacher. Her plays have performed in China, France, and the United States. She has been a forest ranger, sous-chef in Paris, and a physical theater specialist around the world. She attended Yale University and the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. In 2019 she received a Fulbright Specialist award to travel to Turkey and give master classes at Tatbikat Theatre. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Campisi lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her family.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Sin Eater, and reported the following:
From page 69:
…The Queen herself sits not four paces from us. “The sin eater stopped. Is it a portent?” she asks the Willow Tree.

The Willow Tree talks louder than he should, but more like because he’s unaware, than that he means to be loud. “I saw no such signs. Perhaps she trembles at the gravity of the sin.”

The Queen signals her black-fingered secretary. He goes to the front of the Makerhall. The Willow Tree hastily follows after as if he doesn’t want to be left out. They talk a bit as if they’re arguing. The secretary’s hands move as he speaks, and his black fingertips look like charred tinder. I swallow away the giggle that comes into my throat.

Black Fingers addresses the hall. “The sin eater will proceed with the Eating of Corliss Ashton as is the sin eater’s duty, conferred by the Maker and his agent on earth, Her Majesty, Queen Bethany.”

The Sin Eater doesn’t move.

I know it’s the deer heart. She vowed to eat the sins Corliss recited. The deer heart is a lie. She won’t break her vow. I feel like a squirrel seeing the shadow of a hawk. I dread what’s coming for us.

Black Fingers waits one more breath and then speaks. “If the sin eater refuses to eat, she disobeys a direct order from the Maker as it is written in the Maker’s Book.” Every breath in every body stills. As if following my thoughts, he goes on. “To disobey a direct order from the Maker and his agent Queen Bethany”—his own voice quiets—“is treason.”

Treason is death. And under Queen Bethany that’s not by a noose and the gallows but by gutting or burning or worse. I wait for the Sin Eater to move. When she doesn’t, I do something plain foolish. I take my hand and place it on hers.
Page 69 of Sin Eater is right in the heart of the plot, a critical moment that changes the course of May's (the main character) life. It's a great introduction to the book because it's central to both the character's emotional journey and the story's mystery.

As a sin eater, 14-year-old May Owens becomes a pariah in her own community. But as the novel progresses, she turns this curse into an unexpected source of power. She uncovers a series of murders that reach all the way to the queen and sets out to solve them using her untouchable status. It’s a story about an isolated young woman finding her strength and also finding her people.

May’s journey is about finding home—with all its connotations of comfort, sanctuary and identity. But she doesn’t just do this out in the world, she also finds a home within herself. I wanted to chart an individual revolution in the way one woman views herself and her situation—a seemingly isolated act of rebellion in an unjust world. Change starts at home, with yourself, and grows from there. Even if we aren’t queens, we can still make profound change in how we live our lives.
Visit Megan Campisi's website.

--Marshal Zeringue