Elizabeth Massie’s Sineater

Sineater – Elizabeth Massie

Carroll & Graf – 1994 (Originally published 1992)

Avery Barker is a sineater, a man who ritually cleanses dead bodies of sin by eating a meal off their chest. He lives just outside of Beacon Cove, a small, extremely religious community in the mountains of Virginia. The service he offers is extremely important to this community, but it also renders him and his family as outcasts. The rest of the community believe that just looking at the sineater would be enough to kill a person. Unfortunately for everyone, Missy Campbell, the religious leader of the community, has gotten it into her head that the sineater has consumed too much sin and gone mad. Very bad things start happening, and it’s unclear as to who’s responsible.

The story centers around Joel, Avery’s youngest son and the only Barker to attend school. To make things complicated, he becomes friendly with Missy’s nephew, Burke. Joel is such a sympathetic character that I spent the whole book dreading that something bad would happen to him. It’s pretty obvious from the get-go that this book isn’t going to end happily.

I really enjoyed Sineater. It’s dark, and parts of it are very gross, but the story is good, and the characters are fun.

Apparently sineaters were a real thing in parts of Britain. I don’t think they were ever shunned to the extent that Avery is in this book though.

Afraid: Tidbits of the Macabre
Crossroads Press – 2011

I read Massie’s collection Afraid: Tidbits of the Macabre a few months ago. I didn’t write anything down about it after reading it, but I remember quite a few stories about people locked in basements. It also had a weird story about a body part, I honestly can’t remember which, vacating its body. Cool. I enjoyed the collection well enough to want to read more of Massie’s work. Sineater was even better, and I plan to read more of her books in the future.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Massie was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma last year. It seems that she is recovering, but she lives in one of those countries where people have to pay for medical care. There is a gofundme page set up where people can donate to help with her medical costs. Help out if you can.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s