Sinful Folk: A Novel of the Middle Ages (Paperback)
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Published: Campanile Books, 1/2014
Sinful Folk was sent to me as a gift by someone who didn’t expect me to see it and become enamored with it without her express recommendation, given that I have access to so many books already. I was immediately pulled in because of the main character, Miriam. Miriam is an ex scholarly nun who left the order when she became pregnant with the child of a nobleman. She escaped to a distant village to raise her baby, a son. She bound her breasts and portrayed a mute man so that her voice would not give her away. When her son was killed in a fire with four other boys, she decided to join a rag-tag team of villagers who wanted the king to investigate. They face many dangers on the highway, being that they are unprotected and the perpetrators of the murder are still at large.
Miriam speaks in first person of her ordeal and it is interesting how she clearly communicated even as a mute amongst the mostly ignorant villagers who relied upon superstition and luck to make their way in life. She speaks in the present and speaks of her past and of experiences with the villagers where no one is as they seem, and everyone they encounter has secrets and is not what they seem. This is a great study on human behavior, and it doesn’t matter in what time period people are struggling, as the feelings are the same.
I have to warn anyone ordering this book that it gets painfully long at times. I was in such worry over the characters (not another highway encounter, not another beating!) that I looked up the author, Ned Hayes. Ned is a modern writer and I got the impression that he wanted me to feel as I did. I got to the point that I was eagerly reading, but whispering (or yelling) at the character and telling her that it was OK to stop her quest. As she somersaulted through grief, the dangers of the road, and nursing comrades to health, she was spurred on by thoughts of her mother’s dying wish which she would not reveal even to the reader.
About 7/8 through, just when I thought that she was comfortable and happy and the ending seemed OK, there was yet another plot twist and another quest. It was here that the ending wrapped up beautifully and all the pain that she went through was worth surviving and would have been worth dying for if death had happened. I cried with joy as if I had known her mother, as I realized then that I wanted it for her, too. As the story concluded, all the symbolic meaning became evident and the struggle was worth it.