A review by Joey Madia
I have to say up front: I am a big fan of Sharon Heath’s writing—especially her characters, such as the brilliant but troubled eponymous lead in the Fleur trilogy (also published by Thomas-Jacob). Heath, a certified Jungian analyst, “writes fiction and non-fiction exploring the inter-play of science and spirit, politics and pop culture.” Creating at the intersection of perceived dichotomies such as these is very Jungian, alchemical, shamanic, and above all, necessary.
Some books provide an escape hatch away from the mounting troubles of a world in crisis. And there are plenty of reasons to seek escape. This past week, another pair of factors—economics and health—ramped up their interplay with the increase in Coronavirus cases and wild gyrations in the Stock Market. (The fact that we talk about economics and health as closely linked because of greedy pharmaceutical and insurance companies and a complicit AMA is a national embarrassment.)
Heath’s books, however, engage us further into the world’s troubles, as she ups the stakes on a macro level while pulling us in with her characters on the micro level.
If literature has real value for the soul, this is it.
Although there are many thematic overlaps with the Fleur trilogy and Chasing Eve, it is the unique features of the latter that I am going to concentrate on here.
Chasing Eve takes place in Los Angeles, a geography with which Heath is obviously intimately familiar. LA is a complex intermix of racial and religious dichotomies, of extravagant wealth and fame, and abject poverty and obscurity within the city’s large population of homeless. In Chasing Eve we encounter those suffering from drug addiction, AIDS, and the pains of basic survival co-existing with doctors, college professors, and a Hollywood public relations specialist whose bad behavior and at times eye-opening coldness to what’s going on around them set the book’s thematic tone.
Having grown up at the Jersey Shore, I experienced this type of dichotomous socio-sphere in Atlantic City (and to a lesser degree in many other affluent coastal towns), where there is an unspoken agreement that the Haves and Have-Nots co-exist with minimal engagement. It is the only way to make the psychology of Separateness and economic disparity work without actually dismantling the System.
And, like we’ve seen in places such as New Orleans, Haiti, and Japan, it often takes a natural disaster (a little plot spoiler) to at least shake up the System enough for these split societies to at least see each other for more than a passing moment, although, sad to say, like popcorn in a carnival machine, all the activity settles down into a static pile of stale bits of matter all too quickly, once the politicians have exhausted the elastic capital of their sound bites and the latest celebrity seizing an opportunity to either rehab their image in the guise of humble humanitarian or simply say, “Hey, I’m still alive—hire me!” has left the tent villages for a luxury helicopter ride to their skyscraper penthouse.
I quoted earlier the author’s “exploring the inter-play of science and spirit,” which means, to me, the nexus point known as Quantum Physics. Whereas the Fleur trilogy takes QP as its core subject, Chasing Eve works with expressions of its underlying mechanisms. The characters here, operating in a collective Heroes’ Journey (an ever more prevalent device due to popular quest stories such as Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones), are entangled by place, history, interest, and circumstance. It is an elegant “butterfly effect” scenario: as we move quickly through episodes in somewhere around nine separate story arcs, each action of that character affects the others. It is beautiful to watch unfold.
Although one could make a case that the central or hub character in this wheel of dramatic personae is Ariel, the first we meet and the one who graces the cover, I did not give greater weight to Ariel’s story over any of the others. Indeed—she was because they were, to riff on a phrase, and the same goes for the entire cast.
Along with the principle of quantum entanglement is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle—simultaneous existence of particle and wave in a cosmic dance in which the observer affects the ever-changing manifestations. I embrace the notion that where we place our Awareness and set our Intention sparks the creative act of Manifestation, as infinite waves of possibility collapse one by one into what becomes Experience. For this alchemical process to work, we must embrace our full Potentiality, otherwise we limit our Imagination and what might ultimately come to be.
The characters in Chasing Eve journey primarily from a place of rejecting or sabotaging their Potentialities (as so many do) to embracing them. Past hurts, bad behavior, excuses, “hiding their light under a bushel” (to use Gay Hendrick’s term), and above all self-doubt keep them in many ways in a small, safe life that provides little of what people need to truly be Alive.
Again, none of the characters could have made their individual journeys on their own, or they would have, so this Heroes’ Journey is important.
So who is this Eve they are chasing? At the start of the novel, Ariel sees a report that the 14,000-year-old bones have been found in Africa of a woman from whom “all modern humans are descended.” While this particular Eve is fictional, the author tells us in the acknowledgments that she is based on quite a bit of hard science.
Be aware of names in the book: In the first four pages we have Ariel, Eve, and Jezebel.
I mentioned the detailed geography of LA; Heath is equally knowledgeable about the cultures and religions. As she does in the Fleur trilogy, she treats the reader to a cornucopia of different foods, customs, (sometimes very colorful) expressions, and rituals as the characters interact. This is a wonderful way to remind us of what Eve represents—the connection that we all have to one another.
I was particularly fond of Selma Goldberg, an elderly Jewish woman whose unabashed opinions, desire to feed everyone in the neighborhood and beyond, and deep compassion reminded me of my two Italian grandmothers. We all need a Selma in our lives.
And we all need to read the rich, provocative stories from writers like Sharon Heath.
AUTHOR: Sharon Heath
TITLE: Chasing Eve
PUBLISHER: Thomas-Jacob Publishing