The Mida, (pronounced "mi-DAY"—an Ojibwa word meaning "mystically powerful), co-written by Lyle Ernst and Kimberly Sigafus is a novel about, yes, the Mida, a mystically powerful, time-traveling carnival that provides a haven for its people until the time comes for them to face the critical decisions they made in the past.
The authors have constructed the story with professional excellence, and this construction allows the reader to absorb the novel like a favorite snack. You just keep nibbling, turning page after page, until you realize you’ve devoured far more in one sitting than you intended.
The novel possesses a fine array of story elements. There are psychic abilities, Wiccan magic, Native American mysticism, a murder mystery, a reluctant romance, a dark entity of unmistakable evil, betrayal by a trusted member of the carnival, and the primary plot, which is, in Paul Simon's words, the mother and child reunion. And if that's not enough, there's also a white owl that locates the murderer and serves to link past to present.
Yet, the story does not feel at all crowded. The authors have managed to house all those things in a comfortable and roomy structure that entices the reader to just keep snacking, page after page.
The story begins with Tony, who is perplexed at the sudden overnight and quite silent arrival of a carnival, complete with rides and all the carnival trimmings in the lot across the street from his house. When he mentions this to Nola, his grandmother—the woman that has raised him to adulthood—she knows at once it is the Mida. But she says nothing about it to her grandson.
Tony, suspicious and aggressively curious, storms over to the carnival to demand an explanation from the owner. Carnivals do not just appear overnight, especially in their small town in October.
The owner and primary character is Mesa, an Ojibwa woman who is a part of the secret medicine society called the Midewiwan. She inherited the carnival when her husband, John, was killed by the dark entity Jiibay. The carnival has brought Mesa to 1952 Iowa to reunite with Tony, the son she left with John's mother twenty years before in order to keep him safe from Jiibay.
I liked Mesa. I usually like attractive female characters, but Mesa is more than that. She is, with stoic courage, dealing with the problems of the carnival and its workers. And as the challenges continue to pile on, one after another, she simply meets them head-on, quietly, without fanfare or retreat. She inspires the reader to want to be her confidant because she seems to need one. I also sympathized with her situation. While she is trying to deal with the predicament of her son, she finds herself and her carnival family under suspicion of a multiple murder that occurred apparently about the same time they arrived. One of the victims was Tony's girlfriend, so he is also a suspect.
And to make her life even more complicated, she finds herself romantically attracted to the sheriff investigating the crime, and he feels the same toward her, despite her status as a suspect. A romance might be just what she needs, yet she cannot indulge that need, for she will have to leave all too soon.
Each of the carnival workers has a unique gift of some sort, and the carnival itself enhances these gifts. But the Mida can only remain in one place for a week to avoid being discovered by Jiibay, who wants to take control of it and use its powers for his own evil purposes. So Mesa and her friends have only that long to use those gifts to discover the real murderer, removing themselves and Tony from suspicion.
And Mesa, Tony, and Tony's grandmother must struggle with the issue of why the carnival has brought Mesa to this here and now. Should Tony choose to stay with his grandmother and the life he has known, or leave with this stranger that has been revealed as the mother he thought long dead? Will Nola allow Tony, the only family she has left, to leave without protest? And does Mesa want him to stay, safe, or allow him to put himself in danger by joining the carnival?
I thoroughly enjoyed The Mida. My only issue was that even though those special powers are introduced earlier in the novel in a very natural way, when the climax arrived it seemed to me that those abilities reached a level of power I had not been lead to expect. Yet, to be fair, that level of achievement is explained in a way that is contextually consistent with the rest of the story.
Those powers are needed for the primary climax, which is the confrontation with the man that has committed multiple murders. And they are needed even more for the secondary climax, which is the confrontation with Jiibay and the betrayal of the carnival by one of its own.
The Mida is a stand-alone novel, but it is also the first in a series of eight planned stories. The authors finish the book with a teaser of what the next volume will bring.
Kimberly Sigafus and Lyle Ernst have both garnered multiple writing awards—individually as well as for their previous collaboration, Native Writers, Voices of Power. They have collaborated on two other books about Native American traditions and writings; this is their first fiction collaboration.
The Mida is available in paperback from Amazon and in e-book format through Kindle and Smashwords.
There isn't a lot of quality speculative fiction out there written with an understanding of Native American mysticism plus an open-minded acceptance of other paranormal features. This book does help fill that void, and it's a really good read, too.
copyright © 2014
available at amazon.com
♦ Fred Waiss is a former high school teacher and coach who writes poetry, articles, short stories, novellas, and novels as the muse attacks; as an author he considers himself a work in progress.
♦ This author's generous contributions help make P&S possible.