The Sa­cred Beasts

Bev Jafek

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - RE­BECCA FOSTER

Bedaz­zled Ink Soft­cover $13.95 (272pp) 978-1-943837-46-5

This at­mo­spheric novel is all about valu­ing women’s ideas, sto­ries, art, and bod­ies.

Jafek draws from many fields of knowl­edge in craft­ing her pic­ture of a fe­male-dom­i­nated com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing pol­i­tics, the his­tory of re­li­gion, and re­search into pri­mate be­hav­ior.

Push­cart Prize fi­nal­ist Bev Jafek’s The Sa­cred

Beasts is a fiercely fem­i­nist novel that makes space for women’s sto­ries and art in the midst of ma­cho are­nas and cel­e­brates women’s sex­u­al­ity, par­tic­u­larly les­bian iden­tity.

The story moves from Ar­gentina to Spain, open­ing in Patagonia with re­tired zo­ol­o­gist Ruth Land mourn­ing the sui­cide of her long­time part­ner, Ka­tia. The griev­ing Ruth builds a sculp­ture gar­den with ob­jects from the dump. A much younger neigh­bor, sculp­tor Sylvie Du­marais, be­comes in­ter­ested in Ruth’s art and ac­com­pa­nies her to Spain, where they be­come lovers. In Barcelona, they meet an­other May­de­cem­ber fe­male cou­ple, Mon­ser­rat and Alex, and swap part­ners as they be­come en­meshed in a thriv­ing fem­i­nist sub­cul­ture.

The novel clev­erly sub­verts ex­pec­ta­tions for a typ­i­cal struc­ture by re­order­ing its three parts: “The End,” “The Be­gin­ning,” then “The Mid­dle.” Thus, out of the sad­ness of Ka­tia’s death, which feels like an end­ing for Ruth, comes the pos­si­bil­ity of a new re­la­tion­ship. Part 1 is in­ti­mate, ex­pos­ing Ruth’s thoughts, and thrills in her un­usual vo­cab­u­lary and vivid de­scrip­tions of the nat­u­ral world.

Even with co­pi­ous, and of­ten strangely clin­i­cal, sex scenes, the third and long­est sec­tion sets in mo­tion fresh love af­fairs and the char­ac­ters’ work with the Mu­jeres Li­bres neo-an­ar­chist or­ga­ni­za­tion and a fem­i­nist pub­lish­ing com­pany in Spain, sug­gest­ing that this women’s move­ment is on­go­ing, well be­yond the con­fines of the book.

Jafek draws from many fields of knowl­edge in craft­ing her pic­ture of a fe­male-dom­i­nated com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing pol­i­tics, the his­tory of re­li­gion, and re­search into pri­mate be­hav­ior. Ruth and Sylvie, es­pe­cially, en­gage in deep, feisty con­ver­sa­tions about gen­der roles. It’s not all in­tel­lec­tu­al­ism, though: these slightly te­dious di­a­logues are later coun­ter­bal­anced by earthy sto­ries about gypsy women’s mu­sic and fe­male con­tri­bu­tions to the Span­ish Civil War ef­fort.

All the char­ac­ters are force­ful pres­ences in this at­mo­spheric novel that is all about valu­ing women’s ideas, sto­ries, art, and bod­ies.

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