When he arrived, I ordered the Uber, and in no time, one showed up. We got dropped off at the restaurant. Driver earned extra points when he asked me if I wanted to order a large cheese dip. However, he lost points when he stuck his chip in the dip, sucked the cheese off of the chip, and then stuck said chip back into the queso. I was baffled and confused and hurt that he would treat the cheese dip that way.
“Why’d you do that?” I couldn’t help myself. I had to ask.
He shrugged his shoulders. “I like the cheese. I don’t like the chip.”
I decided to shrug it off. I mean, at least the man liked cheese. You may be shocked to know, I’ve dated some guys who don’t.
After the crazy queso fiasco, things were all fine and dandy . . .
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.
The Bottom Line: Upon reflection, I can’t say I loved this book, but I can definitively say I found it fascinating. Though the names have been altered, the setting is clearly England during the reign of Elizabeth I and there are nefarious deeds being perpetrated in the castle. Getting to the bottom of the mystery requires the abilities of one young lady, a recently appointed sin eater who is caught up in a mess she never should have been privy to.
In truth, I could have done without the whole court conspiracy bit and just read about the life of May, the sin eater. Her punishment is reprehensible, the people she lives among treat her as an outcast, at best, yet they need her on a daily basis to make themselves feel better about their miserable lives. The dynamic between May and the people she “serves” was the most intriguing aspect of this read, followed closely by the sins and the foods associated with them. Finally, “watching” as May comes to terms with her life sentence was like watching a train wreck, you know its’s bad and you should be watching, but you also can’t stop yourself.
The writing is top notch the story is fascinating, but this isn’t going to be a story for all readers. This book sort of defies placement within a specific genre, the abuse May suffers, and the matching up of the fake names with the real historical figures will be bothersome to many. For the rest of us, it’s just an intense and wonderfully weird read.
Isobel Johnson knows helicopter parents like Julia Abbott–a stage mom whose world revolves around interfering in her children’s lives–come with the territory. Julia resents teachers like Isobel, who effortlessly bond with students, including Julia’s own teenagers, who have started pulling further away from her.
Isobel has spent her teaching career in Liston Heights side-stepping the community’s high-powered families. But when she receives a threatening voicemail accusing her of Anti-Americanism and a “blatant liberal agenda,” she realizes she’s squarely in the fray. Rather than cowering, Isobel doubles down on her social-justice ideals. Meanwhile, Julia, obsessed with the casting of the high school’s winter musical, inadvertently shoves the female student lead after sneaking onto the school campus. The damning video footage goes viral and has far-reaching consequences for Julia and her entire family.
With nothing to unite them beyond the sting of humiliation from public meltdowns, Isobel and Julia will find common ground where they least expect it, confronting a secret Facebook gossip site that’s stirring up more trouble for this tumultuous, fractured school community.
The Bottom Line: Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes is one of those reads that I finished and after 24 hours of reflection find that I mostly just feel ambivalent towards this story and its characters. There are a lot of threads and plot lines in this book and while they are all connected to one another, they don’t always connect well. What’s more, outside of the teenagers (GASP!) there isn’t really a decent character in this book. The adults are simply pathetic, each looking for ways to better others or tear down those they perceive as having slighted them. The pettiness is next level with personal and professional attacks alike. The greatest level of maturity, proper behavior, and actions in the book come from the kids and that simply makes no sense given who their parents are. At the end of it all, I walked away from this book thankful there wasn’t anything left to read, no more drama and no more catastrophes.