Thursday, April 2, 2020

Review: Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

Sin Eater
Sin Eater by Megan Campisi
Atria Books
Publication Date: April 7th, 2020
Hardcover. 304 pages

About Sin Eater:

"The Sin Eater walks among us, unseen, unheard
Sins of our flesh become sins of Hers
Following Her to the grave, unseen, unheard
The Sin Eater Walks Among Us.

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."

Sin Eater was such an odd and unexpected story. This is a story about May who is forced to become a Sin Eater as punishment for her crime of stealing bread. I hadn't heard of the idea of Sin Eaters before this book, but it is apparently based on a real role that once existed, though the author is very clear in her author's note that little is actually known and most of this novel is entirely fictionalized. Nonetheless, I definitely still looked it up to find out more about it!

Sin Eater is one of those books that has a very stark, almost cold atmosphere that sort of prevents the reader from ever feeling too comfortable in it. It depicts a world that is harsh and unforgiving, especially since it is centered so heavily around sins and the wrongs that people do throughout their lives, but at the same time there was a often a very subtle thread of dark humor that ran beneath the surface of the narrative, a sort of mocking, sarcastic acknowledgment of the tragedy and struggles that exist in all classes, and that at the end of the day, we all day and have our own sins to consider at the end of our lives.

We follow the POV of May as she slowly adjusts to her new dark and lonely life as a Sin Eater. Through May, we are able to delve into this role and understand just what it might have entailed, from the fear and shame that other people when you are around to the invisibility that encompasses the life of a Sin Eater since they aren't allowed to talk to or acknowledge anyone else--in fact, the only time they are meant to talk is when they recite their ritual words and acknowledgments when hearing the sins of the dying and then relaying them to whoever is to prepare the food for the eating at the funeral.

I found myself really engaged with May's story and enjoyed following her journey as she slowly learned to become more comfortable in her position (as comfortable as can be, given what her new life entails), as well as how she described the different people, places, and situations she encountered. It took me a little while to fully connect with her character due to the tone her narration conveyed, but by the end I was able to find a stronger connection.

I particularly liked how Campisi managed to touch on and explore so many different themes and major issues through a book with such a relatively simple premise. Some of the biggest themes explored are that of social class issues, culture, family, and even those relating to gender roles. May herself is from a low class, yet moving the role of a Sin Eater tends to push her down even further, though at the same time she is able to move into the upper classes as a silent observer as she takes the dyings' confessions, which allows for an understanding and analysis of the workings of the upper class from a new perspective. This is also how May sort of stumbles into a situation much bigger than she could have ever anticipated and that leads to even more intrigue.

Overall, I've given Sin Eater four stars! As I briefly mentioned, there was a bit of disconnect at times with May in the beginning and with the tone of the narrative, but overall I was really intrigued by the premise and rather enjoyed this one.

*I received a copy of  Sin Eater courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one! Sounds like a bit of an unsettling read.