This complex yet beautiful novel involves two young women whose lives connect across the span of seven centuries. Eva is a minstrel in thirteenth-century France; Sandy Owens sings in bar bands in the United States in the late nineteen sixties. Both aspire to spiritual, sexual and artistic mastery. Told in alternating chapters their stories run parallel, then interweave, then merge in the novel's climactic scene.
More than a tale of reincarnation, The Rebel and the Troubadour celebrates the unique mentality that must seek enlightenment. The book is brave enough to confront the terrors thrown up by the world to block a seeker's way, and honest enough to exult in the delights which spur such heroines on.
The story unfolds as three parts. In the first, Eva and Sandy emerge from adolescence only to be hurt by society. Despite her devotion Eva is condemned by the Church: she can't suppress her love of sex--her love of loving others--and she cannot keep her "sins" a secret. Sandy turns from her culture when it maims her brother and kills her husband, both in Vietnam.
In Part II, the alienated young women find their lives' purpose: they resolve to bring happiness to others through music. Eva lives in a religious age, so her motivation is spiritual. And since medieval culture was dominated by belief in the supernatural, her journey is a fantastic one. Sandy's quest resonates with her own times, her mental growth spurred by friends who travel inward with LSD. The musicians take their places contentedly outside the mainstream.
But their art, ethics and non-conformism prove subversive. In Part III, the world lashes out at the young women's freedom. Eva's happy way of life is seen as heresy, and she falls into the hands of the Church. Though she has brought harm to no one she must face a dire punishment. Sandy is blamed for her lover's accidental death and charged with a crime she did not commit. The accident leaves her gravely injured; the litigation scars her psyche.
Yet all is not despair. As Sandy has moved forward she has become aware of Eva, vaguely at first, in her dreams catching sight of a beautiful young woman who lived long ago, just as Eva sees fleeting images of Sandy. Similar events happen in both women's lives, and they each respond in just the same way. Identical characters appear--a helpful, white haired woman; a dark and menacing priest--showing the reader that the young singers share a connection above the perceptions of the world.
Wounded Sandy retreats into New Mexico's Gila Wilderness. She seeks renewal in the vast remoteness but soon finds more trouble--physical, mental and emotional--until desperate she cowers, naked and exhausted in a deep desert canyon, at the mercy of deathly torments.
She does not stand alone. Having braved the depths of her inner darkness, Sandy comes to the place where Eva dwells. On their separate quests the young singers experienced the world's evil at its core, yet soared to the highest reach of the human mind. Now they may join. What was suggested becomes explicit: the young heroines, both rebel and troubadour, meet. Though their lives were separate their journey is one. They proceed to its ending together.