Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Sin Eaters by Andrew Beahrs (30/81)

Category: Authors That Are New To Me
C2008 238pages 5stars

Bill is a unfortunate lad. Made an orphan by plague and tricked into the practice of sin-eating, he is now an outcast. Sarah, fleeing from her village, discovers Bill and finds herself unable to pass him by. Sarah knows what it is to harbor the weight of sin and she is compelled to help Bill, perhaps as only she is capable of doing. Faced with the first act of human charity in many days, Bill agrees to travel with Sarah, unaware of who or what she is fleeing from, but hoping that she possesses the ability to set him free.

I found this ARC at a Friends of the Library sale. It is a small, unassuming thing but it caught my eye. I put it in my basket thinking, if nothing else, it will serve a place in my BookMooch inventory. It has sat on my shelf for five months and I haven't given it a thought since then. But yesterday it called to me and I've been hard pressed to set it down.
This book is so full of beautifully descriptive and evocative phrases. Mr Beahrs is truly a wordsmith. I could visualize each scene so easily, there was no work, no effort to ground myself in this story. I was there. And these people! I was drawn to them all. More than just the titular sin-eater, each character was a fine study on how every act sets others in motion. How our sins weigh on us, how they drive us, bring us close, tear us apart. This is a fine tale - it will be one of my favorite books for this year.


"The clothes are warm she says. They are for a girl and I will not wear them and I fold these hands before me and cross my legs. I do not care that my yard flops free. I think to myself that I have enough girl inside me already. I have eaten the sins of more than one. Were they to sing, there are enough to make a chorus."

"There is no greater crime than setting a fire... It gorges on anything that men can build. It makes men's labors into dust, and their dreams into nonsense. Fire is a treason to all - those scorched, but also those spared...Men's greatest hopes turn cinder-black. Their faith chars."

"Mothers and daughters speak to each other without words, using a tongue made up of history, and wrongs done and favors owed and wounds well known."

"The world teems with life and the living, so richly that it sometimes seems impossible for any life to be lost. But all are. To save some bit of life, if only for a while, to offer breath and blood to another, if only for a little time...that is such a gift!"

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