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Genre - Urban Fantasy
Rating - PG13
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I explained on my blog awhile back that each of the Pipe Woman Chronicles books has, as its theme, a different direction on a Native American medicine wheel. The first book in the series, Seized, is East: the dawning of a new day and a new life. East’s animal totem is the elk, which is associated with love, so East also represents the beginning of a love affair – and in that book, Naomi and Joseph meet as adults and begin to care for one another.
Fissured’s direction is South: passion, in all its forms – not just lust, but anger, and deeply-held beliefs, as well. As it happens, all of those emotions are present on page 99.
A little background is in order here. Naomi is a lawyer and a stunningly effective mediator. She learns in Seized that she has been chosen by a Lakota Sioux goddess, White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman, to mediate a dispute between the Judeo-Christian God and the pagan gods and goddesses whose worship His religion has suppressed. Naomi is not altogether on board with the goddess’s plan, but so far she has been swept along by the tide of events. (Don’t worry – her day of reckoning is coming.) One of those events was meeting Joseph, a Ute Indian skinwalker. He is supposed to be Naomi’s Guardian, and sometimes he drives her crazy by taking the job a little too seriously. Naomi’s best friend Shannon is also part of the team – she’s been designated the Counselor. According to Joseph’s grandfather – a shaman whose vision kicks the whole thing off – the team should have a fourth member called the Investigator. In Fissured, Naomi and Joseph meet Jack Rivers, who would seem to be a likely candidate for the position, except that Jack seems to be more interested in breaking up the team than in joining it. He pursues Naomi throughout the novel, even after both Naomi and Joseph tell him to stop.
Page 99 is a pillow talk scene in which Joseph explains to Naomi his theory about why Jack behaves the way he does. He tells her that Jack is the kind of guy who believes that men should always be in charge – that if a woman is an effective leader, she’s simply a figurehead for the powerful male behind her, and that a man can gain the other man’s power by capturing the woman for his own. Joseph illustrates this by relating the story of a couple of his college classmates – a woman who seemed destined for success, and a man who had to have her. Joseph explains that the man, Eduardo, deliberately got the woman pregnant so that her career aspirations would be curtailed. “He wanted her,” Joseph says, “but he didn’t want her to be better than him.” And then he says, “I wanted to slug him.”
This scene serves several purposes. First, it underscores the relationship between Naomi and Joseph. She begins the book by claiming that the bloom is off the rose for her – that the newness of being with Joseph is wearing off and she’s beginning to question whether their relationship will last. And yet their every interaction belies that: their lifestyles mesh, they like the same movies, they converse in shorthand, and they have a good time in bed. Jack has to call in a god of his own to drive a wedge between them.
Second, this scene gives the reader a window into Joseph’s mores. He is defining himself here as the kind of guy who thinks misogyny is wrong. Not only does he have no problem with being in a relationship with a strong woman, but he’s angry that other men don’t feel the same way.
Finally, this scene reminds the reader of Naomi’s Achilles heel (or one of them, anyway): she is class conscious. She is the daughter of a single mother and grew up lower-middle-class, and she sees herself as having risen above that life. She is kind of ashamed that she feels this way, and so she keeps her lifestyle low-key. But she has been thinking all along that Joseph didn’t go to college, and it’s one of the things that made her believe the relationship wouldn’t work. In this scene, that barrier is removed – but now she’s annoyed that her friend Shannon knew and didn’t tell her, and that’s creating one more fissure in Naomi’s increasingly fractured life.
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