The Bohemians Canon
The Bohemians Canon
Genre: fantasy, drama, young-adult fiction, romance, horror, mystery, thriller, Bildungsroman – a feminine coming of age, psychological thriller, comedy, historical fiction, contemporary upmarket women’s fiction, magical realism
Themes: regeneration, death, rebirth, survival, prejudice, politics, slavery, corruption, balance of masculine and feminine properties, physics, love, faith, religion, spirituality, science, sexuality, creativity, art, romance
The Bohemians trilogy tells an epic fantasy tale of good and evil in three volumes:
I. The Bohemians (c. 1789 – c. 1860)
II. The Jesusmonkey (c. 1971 – c. 2069)
III. The Secret Sect of the Double Duchess (c. 2016 – c. 2089)
The Bohemians narrative is constructed as a monomyth that follows the pattern of the hero’s journey. The epic is framed within a 300-year span that touches four centuries, from 1789 to 2089, and embodies universal themes and characters through a trilogy of tales that each involve a female hero from a different era who completes her cycle of the hero’s journey. In each epoch, the heroine ventures forth from the world of her common day into a region of supernatural wonder where she encounters fantastical forces and a decisive victory is won. She returns from her mysterious adventure to share the boons with her generation.
The main character is introduced through historical events as a French Duchess named Marion Chasseresse, who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries (1791-1865) on the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Panhandle near present day Seaside. The Duchess was hidden by her father for her own protection and intentionally left out of history books by the male-dominated Christian influences of the 2nd Great Awakening.
The arc of the story is her personal struggle to become spiritually immortal in order to ultimately overthrow the establishments that kept her imprisoned throughout her lifetime; resulting in the exposing of a lost religious sect, comprised of Native Americans, African-American slaves, and secret groups of men and women that worship the Duchess. The story unfolds as a gradual rediscovery of the events surrounding this extraordinary woman and two of the lives she touched.
The epic begins in present day America (February 2016) with The Jesusmonkey; written in the contemporary voice of a 33-year old woman named Cassidy Cramer, who discovers a diary written in 1855 by her 9-year old great grandmother, Sustah Sullivan. The diary is titled The Bohemians by Sustah and her entries detail the story of her summer-long encounter with the Duchess on the uninhabited shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
Sustah authors her adventure through the eyes of five little girls (ages 9-12) from Red Level, Alabama, who run away from home when a traveling preacher warns that they will be taken to hell for stealing a candy stick from the local mercantile. They follow an African-American slave named Katie, who leads them to the Duchess, on a two-week perilous journey through the southern wild. In the Duchess, the girls seek forgiveness and redemption for their sins. In them, she seeks guileless storytellers that will bring her heroic biography to life after her death. Through the succession of the season, the Duchess shares her life story with the girls, while Sustah records it in her diary through the open eyes of a child, just as she sees it – a fantastical drama, through which she interprets everyday objects, nature and wildlife as holding supernatural and alchemical powers. She incorporates aspects of both an alternate universe and a mythic past into the journal entries that parallel her current reality. Included in the diary are illustrations, poems, songs, pieces of clothing, jewels, and other magical objects that the five young artists and scribes create, collect, and paste into its folds.
Soon after the aging heroine’s story is penned by Sustah, the girls are discovered by a search party from the United States Calvary and returned to their despairing parents. After spending three months in the wilds with Duchess Marion, the girls have undergone a profound coming of age that has forced them to confront adulthood. They return home as brave young women, their summer on the uninhabited shores of northwest Florida leaving them forever transformed and enlightened; discovering, too, that they now possess magical powers in the ordinary world. The Duchess passes away just days after their departure.
During the course of their summer on the Gulf of Mexico, a Native American girl named Bean, who lives alone in a treehouse near the girl’s encampment, befriends the runaways and teaches them the ways of nature and survival. When the girls are discovered by the United States Calvary, Bean collects and protects the remnants left at their camp (jewelry, clothing, writings, paintings, French documents, and heirlooms) and buries the artifacts with Duchess when she dies. Sustah manages to smuggle her diary home and keeps it hidden for remainder of her life inside a French tapestry cloth given to her by the Duchess. The diary and the cloth are discovered more than a century later by her great-granddaughter, Cassidy.
All five girls grow to become women and pass the legendary tale of the Duchess down through the females in their families – carefully and secretly – only through verbal storytelling and through dreams and visions, as requested by the Duchess. Each of their life-long tales, plus the story of Katie and Bean, are ultimately written as separate novellas that wrap into The Bohemians Canon, but is Sustah’s diary that is the hallmark of The Bohemians Trilogy.
Cassidy and the other four great-granddaughters descended from the five runaway girls live in various places in the world. In her mid-twenties, unbeknownst to the others, each woman is transfixed by dreams and visions of crystal white sand and emerald water while simultaneously discovering that she possesses psychic and supernatural powers. Each great-granddaughter feels a pull to the Gulf of Mexico and relocates near Seaside, Florida. The women encounter one another in their daily lives for more than a decade and become close friends before discovering their unique shared past. When Cassidy discovers the diary, the five women read it together and begin to retrace the steps of their lives and family history, each then writing the story of her great-grandmother’s summer with the Duchess.
Cassidy falls in love with a graduate student of forensic science at Syracuse University, named Gilbert Edmond, and while she believes that the story of the Duchess was conjured by Sustah’s imagination, Cassidy convinces Gilbert to explore the historical accounting of events from her great-grandmother’s diary. In his dissertation called The Secret Sect of the Double Duchess, Gilbert disproves Sustah’s fantasy world as a child-like misinterpretation of real-life science, astronomy and physics and purports that the Duchess did actually exist. The evidence he uncovers supports the existence of Duchess Marion in historical scraps of documents from France, Canada and the United States. Cassidy and the graduate student obtain the necessary permits to exhume the grave of the Duchess, where they discover the artifacts buried by Bean and supporting DNA evidence that validates once and for all, the authenticity of the story written by her great-grandmother. Sustah’s diary is published as The Bohemians and is widely read as a work of fantasy fiction. Sustah refers to the Duchess as Princess Trikaya in her diary and Marion Chasseresse enters modern culture under this pseudonym.
For the remainder of her life, Cassidy continues to trace historical documents and conduct interviews with followers to support the evolution of the secret sect that preserved the worship of the French Duchess who profoundly influenced her great-grandmother’s life. After Cassidy’s death in 2069, the graduate student experiences a sequence of supernatural events, presumably orchestrated by the spirit of the deceased Duchess, and begins to question his scientific theories. Nevertheless, he continues the effort to prove the existence of the Duchess and ultimately succeeds.
In 2080, the life of the Duchess Marion Chasseresse, born in Nevernais, France, in 1789, at the time of the Reign of Terror, is written into American history books. Marion’s life as represented by a super heroine in a fantasy fiction story has already been embraced by the young generation as a new world mythology supporting the female archetype, and now the real Duchess Marion Chasseresse is historically written into existence. The Duchess as Princess Trikaya continues to be revered by respective cultures in cultural mythologies as a mother of nature, a goddess, a queen, an empress, a bodhisattva, a matriarch, a Madonna, a sovereign, and so on. She is a universal leader for women, regardless of their religious creed or code – in fiction and as fact, but now, no longer in secrecy.
The story concludes with Duchess Marion’s prediction, as documented in Sustah’s diary, that her story is the precursor to the rise of feminine powers that would be fully restored three generations after her death, when the next female hero is to be born. Marion’s prediction comes true in the final moments of the story when in 2089, a school teacher in Brooklyn instructs her students to open their history books to learn about the Duchess named Marion Chasseresse, known as Princess Trikaya in present day mythology. Upon realizing that Duchess Marion is the real-life Princess Trikaya that she has seen in movies, read in fairytale books, and carried as a doll, a nine-year old girl in the classroom, envisions herself becoming the heroine of her own era. In so doing, she summons the magical cloth which sets the stage for the evolving myth of the Duchess and leaves the reader to wonder if the young girl is the reincarnated Duchess herself.