by Joseph Damrell
Damrell has an easy writing style that is a pleasure to read; somewhat like a guy on the next barstool recounting his interesting life. His novel, THE ROOT CELLAR, takes you on a trip into Finlander shamanism and the forest spirit world.
THE ROOT CELLAR, set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is very much an attack on a life lived just for position and acquisition absent from nature. The parallels to Carlos Castaneda are evident, although in radically different settings and ethnological backgrounds. Castaneda was an anthropologist supposedly writing nonfiction about his esoteric experiences under the guidance of Don Juan, a Yaqui Indian shaman.
Ray Karhu, the first person narrator of THE ROOT CELLAR, has found a career as a low-level functionary on archeological digs. A reluctant Ray is dragged into his experience as a Finnish-American healer/shaman by his aunt Viena, a woman from the old country steeped in the ancient knowledge of the Karelian people. Even after she dies, Viena continues to guide Ray on his trip into a more spiritual life.
The writer carries you along with some interesting twists and turns and minor conflicts. While Castaneda takes his readers to the edge of the abyss, Rays finds his way into the forest and a relationship with the animals who live there.