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.
Dark, alluring, unstelling, grim, powerful, poetic – these are words I would use to describe Sin Eater by Megan Capsini.
This alternate historical fiction book has a twist of a fantasy element to it almost. Not in the sense of magic but in the sense of otherwordly-ness. Perhaps a historical dystopian fiction book set in Elizabethan England? If we can meld those two genres together I think we can get closer to the core genre of this title.
The premise of this story focuses on a young girl who commits a crime – stealing food because she’s hungry – and instead of being sentenced as usual she is declared to be a “Sin Eater” whose job is to eat the foods left on the recently deceased death bed depicting their sins. Prior to the death the Sin Eater listens to the crimes/sins the dying person committed and eats the food representing each sin. In turn the deceased is absolved of their crimes and would be welcomed by the Maker in the afterlife. The Sin Eater takes these sins to the grave themselves.
As May becomes a Sin Eater she is thrust into a world of confusion and trickery and herself has to solve a crime without being a target herself. This was a very fast engrossing read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. At times I felt as if I had a dark cloud above me but that was part of the allure of this read. The food descriptions made my stomach turn with a whole new experience while reading about food.
I would have to disagree however that this is Alice In Wonderland meets Handmaid’s Tale. There is nothing whimsical about this story (ie: Alice in Wonderland) nor is there anything that would tie it to Handmaid’s Tale. The only comparison here would be that the main character has to eat (I guess Alice eats?) and females are oppressed such as in The Handmaid’s Tale? Sometimes comparisons negatively impact a book because you go into it expecting certain things from the book by comparing it to others when in fact you should be going into the book with optimism that you’ll find a wonderful new story to observe.
Highly recommend this for book clubs!
Thank you Simon & Schuester Canada for sending me the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.