Hunters and Gatherers

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Martha is thirty years old, still reeling from her last romantic disaster and highly critical of her rational, judging self. In a state of profound personal dissatisfaction, she stumbles onto a group of Goddess Worshippers, who are celebrating a Druid holy night on the beach at Fire Island. Events conspire to bring Martha into the gravitational orbit of Isis Moonwagon, the undisputed center of this non-hierarchical group, which includes Jungian therapists, artists, and academics—all of whom are women.

As much as Martha, a life-long outsider, needs the solace offered by these affectionate if somewhat ditzy women, she is still plagued by an irrepressible Athena-consciousness, a rationality that cannot help but notice the human frailty and pettiness lodged in the midst of all the ersatz spiritual striving. While the Goddess Worshippers search ardently for a higher design, they all too often get sidetracked by the omnipresent travails of terrestrial life: sexual jealousy, mother-daughter conflict, career envy, food disorders, loneliness, and car trouble.

The novel culminates in an event-filled sojourn to the American Southwest, where a Native American medicine woman has been hired to teach the Goddess Worshippers authentic native ways and to lead them through the rigors of the sweat lodge and a vision quest. Martha, wary and self- conscious as always, and estranged once again from group life, manages to act on her own best instincts and achieve personal revelations of a highly pedestrian, but unusually comforting kind.