Sistren is a dream-provoking novel about two sisters, one of whom has been murdered. The author tells us that the title is a plural form (like “brethren”) of the word “sister,” but “with mythic or ritual connotations.” It may also be intended to remind us of the sacred rattle. While the plot is based on the story of the descent of Inanna (which is given at the end), this is not a clumsy point-by-point roman de clef, and LeCompte does not beat us over the head with correspondences. Well, yes, there are a cat named Shuba whose actions lead to rescue and recuperation and two short people who may remind us of fingernail creatures. But there are also references to Aesop (one of the sisters says they are like the grasshopper and the ant), and the sheriff is surely related to Aidan Quinn’s lawman in Practical Magic. It’s also a murder mystery. Erika was the head of a radical conservationist group called Earthling whose raison d’être is to protect an old-growth forest. Who killed her? And why?
After Erika Temple’s office in upstate New York is bombed, her sister Nina, a married CPA living in California, flies across the country to “pack up Erika’s life.” The sisters had been out of touch for many years, and as Nina comes into a house that is the antithesis of her own lifestyle and opens box after box, she learns that Erika has been studying the genealogy of the family and tracing the motherline all the way back to the 15th century. Nina must live for six weeks in her sister’s house, where she finds a secret cellar, to do the work. What she finds manifests in disturbing dreams and visions, and she passes through the seven gates of the myth, dropping something she thought was sure and true at each one. But what happens in the throne room of Ereshkigal? What is the truth behind this family’s myths?
Buy this book. Give yourself an uninterrupted evening to read it. Actually, you may want to read it two or three times in a row to catch the details you missed the first time.
~review by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.
Author: Jane LeCompte
iUniverse, Inc., 2006
pp. 159, $12.95