transpose the magic realism of One Hundred Years Of Solitude to a remote island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, splash it liberally with references to celtic culture, and you've got the gist of author Kim Echlin's goddess-inspired second novel.
The winding plot follows three generations of earthy women who live in the town of Millstone Nether. It begins with grandmother Norea, who steals the boots off her mother's corpse and escapes from a poor Irish village by stowing away on a sailor ship disguised as a boy.
In mother Dagmar, aspects of Demeter, Greek goddess of the harvest who controls the weather and coaxes life from dry seeds, are played out. And daughter Nyssa re-enacts the Sumerian goddess Inanna's descent into the underworld and eventual return to the land of the living.
You can tell that Echlin completed a doctoratex on the translation of Ojibway trickster stories. In this novel, she's reimagined her favourite goddess myths in contemporary times. In fact, the women of Millstone Nether dance freely in and out of ancient times and present-day rural society rather than adhering to any one point in time.
The book is lovingly, if a little predictably, laced with lyrics from celtic music, mysterious dancing women and the men who come into their lives as afterthoughts, serving little purpose other than fleeting pleasure.
Norea, Dagmar and Nyssa withstand various trials, right up to the final crescendo, which falls a little flat after such a long wait. *
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Dagmar's Daughter by Kim Echlin (Penguin Viking), 207 pages, $29.99 cloth. Rating: NNN