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Foodie Lit
Jerri Schlenker's The Water Spider

A fire on her 16th birthday has scarred more than Kimi’s body. Thirty-three years later, she cannot move past the event, even if she accidently caused it. The scars on the faces of both Kimi and her mother, Kaya, allude to identities hidden by trauma. Author Jerri Schlenker shared, “Kimi definitely crossed a line on the night of the fire, but she was only sixteen. Still, life can change in an instant by a rash decision or negative emotion such as jealousy.”


Partly a psychological mystery, partly a story of inner spiritual healing, this novel has twists and turns that keep the reader guessing until the end. Twins Kimi and Kachina Ahoka, grew up on a Cherokee reservation in North Carolina. Identical twins have always had a mystique about them and Kimi and Kochina have a very complicated relationship. One of them takes on the pseudonym of Carter Hudson and becomes a Hollywood star. Which one? On their mother Kaya can tell them apart.

Jerri Schlenker.jpeg

Jerri Schlenker had started with a different story. But, as many other authors have told me, “But as usual, when I write, something different comes out. It's like the storyline is being channeled.”  The characters take over and it seems the author becomes a vehicle for the story. Author Jerri Schlenker artfully weaves Hopi and Cherokee nation traditions and spiritual beliefs into the novel.


The characters talk and think about acting. While some acting is on the stage, serious consequences occur when the characters act out different roles in their actual lives. There is a line between casual joking and serious psychological issues with one’s own identity; it seems  Kimi and Kochina cross that line in their identity crises.


In addition to the complexity of the twins’ relationship there is a hidden stranger seeming to track Kimi’s every move.


Several characters have experienced trauma and must find a way to continue living. Some flee, some hide, some turn to healing. A grounding and sanity come to Kimi when she returns to her Hopi and Cherokee heritage. Through folk talks, such as The Water Spider, language and tradition, Kimi is embraced and loved despite her scars. She receives a new sacred name in a healing sweat lodge, leaving her hidden identities behind, the new name symbolizing a powerful new start in life. Jerri told me, “In the book, I used the spiritual path as the way of healing via the sweat lodge and reconnecting with Native American wisdom.”


Traveling into her inner self, Kimi confronts her past and her present to find healing for her future. Friends, family, tradition and a mysterious stranger are companions on this journey.


The Three Sisters, corn, beans and squash, figure largely in many Native American traditional foods. To honor that tradition, the recipe paired to this review is a Grilled Corn Salad. Fresh, simple and delicious, this hardy salad is perfect to take along to BBQ’s or picnics. Use fresh hers such as parsley, basil or oregano to enhance the flavor.

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