Woman Who Lives in the Earth: A Novel

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Written in resonant, poetic prose, this tale about overcoming fear and hatred takes place in a time before modern machines or long after their fall. In a harsh, primitive world, an almond-eyed girl named Sarah and her family are threatened by a severe drought. Sarah's imagination and her fascination with the mysteries of nature lead the local villagers to believe she is an evil demon and the cause of the drought. Sarah is pursued by the Lizard Woman, the embodiment of the villagers' fear and superstition. With ...
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Overview

Written in resonant, poetic prose, this tale about overcoming fear and hatred takes place in a time before modern machines or long after their fall. In a harsh, primitive world, an almond-eyed girl named Sarah and her family are threatened by a severe drought. Sarah's imagination and her fascination with the mysteries of nature lead the local villagers to believe she is an evil demon and the cause of the drought. Sarah is pursued by the Lizard Woman, the embodiment of the villagers' fear and superstition. With her allies, Kreel, Greyling Eyes, and Henkel - a treacherous triumvirate of authority, terror, and record keeping - the Lizard Woman incites the villagers to burn the demon child. In her attempt to save herself and her family, Sarah is aided by her great-grandmother Lilly and by a foxlike creature whose voice comes to her like soft black sand sliding through her thoughts. She discovers her own power and redemption in a secret, transitional world defined by memory and hope.
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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Karen Herc
When Sarah's valley experiences a terrible drought, the young girl begins a quest for rainfall. As the only person left who wants to understand the natural world, it falls to Sarah to save it. The people of Sarah's valley worship and fear animals but have lost most of their contact with them. As the people become more afraid and angry because of the drought, they lose their humanity and take on animal characteristics, like the Lizard Woman who leads the crusade against Sarah, convinced that she is a demon who is preventing the rainfall. She goes to the Triune, three powerful men whose job is to punish those the people want punished, for help in destroying Sarah. Sarah must find a way to make it rain before she is killed. Sarah is a verbal child trapped among taciturn adults. Although her parents love her very much, they can't relate to her need for understanding. Sarah finds a kindred spirit in Lilly, her great-grandmother, but even Lilly can't quite believe it when Sarah tells her about the spirit that only she can see. Sarah can communicate with Marishan Borisan, who appears as a fox to her, because she can turn his thoughts into words. Marishan explains he is a "kind of pattern" who holds together parts of the natural world, and he enables Sarah to learn what it's like to be a hawk, a flower, and a tree. He also explains to her about the three parts of her self: the outside self, the whirling self, and the middle self. The middle self contains a story woven by an enchanted weaver, and this is what makes a person unique. Sarah must look to the middle of the middles when she asks "the Mysterious Woman under the ground" to make it rain, for "only the true spirit of a person may speak to the Mysterious Woman." Eventually, Marishan helps Sarah to become ice, which melts and seeps into the souls of the mob who have come to kill her. The mist cleanses their souls, then rises to the sky to become rainclouds. This story can be read by different ages and on different levels. Besides being a magical adventure story, it also emphasizes the importance of caring for the earth, and so should appeal to lovers of environmental stories as well as fantasy. In addition, the book shows the value of communication. Sarah's recognition of the importance of thoughts and words, and her struggle for a greater understanding of herself and her surroundings, allow her to realize that only through better communication can she save the world. [Editor's Note: After several reprints by a small press, this mythic fable was extensively rewritten for publication by a major house. As an adult fantasy by a first novelist, it may miss its YA audience, which responds enthusiastically when librarians bring it to their notice.]
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060927929
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/1997
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 4.77 (w) x 7.17 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Swain Wolfe
Swain Wolfe
Fellow author Rick DeMarinis sums up the appeal of one of today's most compelling -- and enigmantic -- fiction writers: "Swain Wolfe is a magician -- his hypnotic prose makes the familiar strange, the strange familiar."

Biography

Swain Wolfe is a writer and filmmaker who has lived in Montana most of his life. His early films were made in Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Montana. An interest in cultural anthropology resulted in the films Energy & Morality, about the effect of high energy use on social behavior, and Phantom Cowboy, about the ways groups and individuals heighten their sense of identity by using aggression to isolate themselves and their causes from the general public. His films have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and have twice represented the United States in the International Public Television Conference.

Recent projects have taken him to a Bedouin shantytown on the Gulf of Aqaba and to an island in Alaska to observe and film grizzly bears. The latter film, The Sacred Bear, will explore bear stories from early Eurasian and North American cultures, and compare our present views of nature with those of our early ancestors. One day in a meadow by the sea, he woke from a nap to find himself surrounded by five large grizzlies. He explained, "The bears were eating Chocolate Lilies. They ignored me. But sometimes, when I'm just waking up, I can still feel bears around me: large, serene, self-possessed bears."

For years, Wolfe lived and worked around natural storytellers. The first were the cowboys he lived with as a boy on ranches in Colorado and Montana. As a young man he worked in the underground copper mines of Butte and Walkerville, and later as a logger in the Bitterroot Mountains. In an interview for The Bloomsbury Review, he explained how these jobs affected the way he sees the world:

"When you're underground for a while, you begin to get the feel of where the ore flows, how hard the granite is one place from another, how hot the wall temperature is from level to level, where the earth slips and messes up the tracks, and things you knew but never had words for. Then one day after work you drive over to Anaconda to see your girl and you realize something is very different. Your world is never going to be the same because you cannot be on the surface without thinking about what's underneath. And like water seeping through sand, that sensation invades everything, all your thoughts, your dreams. You're never the same. The mines let you see in unconventional ways. At the same time, many of the miners knew how to tell stories better and with greater purpose than any I've read.

"After the mines, I worked in the woods. I became intensely aware of trees, which created another world for me and a very different way of seeing. Our early ancestors believed the world was alive and aware of us. I know how that feels and it affects how I write and how I tell stories." His novel The Woman Who Lives in the Earth, evolved over a period of years. "The end of the story came from a dream I had as a child. The personalities of the people, even various animals, and, of course, all those experiences that show up in small, unconscious ways -- all these things became a vague sensation that surrounded my dream. Then one day it was a story. It was like seeing a face for the first time in the ancient plaster of your kitchen wall. We can look at something for years, and suddenly see it."

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Adam Michalo (birth name)
    2. Hometown:
      Montana
    1. Date of Birth:
      1939
    2. Place of Birth:
      Denver, Colorado

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2001

    imspiring...

    'If thoughts were green lizards dancing then words would be shadows.' That is the most awe-inspireing qoute I have ever had the privilage to use. I have borrowed on many occasions when my words just could not expressed how I felt inside. I am sure I confused alot of people, but I don't care. I often feel like the girl in the book. Lost and persecuted by all who come across her and believe every rumer said about her. I often wonder when shallow minds will sese...then shutter when I realise they never will...

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