Mirrored in the Caves
a novel by Barbara D. Janusz

Print: 978-1-926708-62-1
ePUB: 978-1-926708-63-8
PDF: 978-1-771331-09-8

254 Pages
May 01, 2012
Fiction All Titles Novel


Mirrored in the Caves a novel by Barbara D. Janusz

When Elizabeth Thiessen embarks on an expedition to study the cave murals of Baja California, Mexico, she is catapulted onto a mythical, existential journey into the unknown. Within days of landing in the Baja, Elizabeth discovers that her daughter, Patricia—posted in Afghanistan with the Canadian armed forces—is taken hostage by the Taliban. Elizabeth struggles with her decision to remain on assignment, her extreme anxiety over her daughter's kidnapping, and the recollections it prompts of her conflicted relationship with her father, a Holocaust survivor.

Mirrored in the Caves

Barbara D. Janusz is a mother, an environmentalist, a lawyer, poet and an educator. Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, she has also lived on the west coast of British Columbia, in Calgary, in Paris, France, and in La Paz, bcs, Mexico. A contributing writer for EnviroLine: The Business Publication for the Environmental Industry, she has published poetry, short stories, editorials, and essays in various other magazines, literary journals, newspapers and anthologies across Canada. Barbara Janusz lives in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, with her partner, Garry, and son, Olek. Mirrored in the Caves is her debut novel.

"Barbara D. Janusz's debut novel is both an outer and inner journey. As Elizabeth Thiessen travels across wild and exotic landscapes to the famed cave murals of Baja, California, she also travels the elusive and tangled paths of memory, love, fear and hope when Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan kidnap her daughter. A scientist, trained to search for rational explanations, Elizabeth, like the shamans of the cave drawings, must learn to see with her heart and soul. As Janusz decodes the myths and mysteries of the great Aboriginal paintings, she weaves together the lives of women, past and present—wives, mothers and daughters, each imbued with the feminine power of transformation, each searching for the courage to face "the infinite vagaries of the unknown.

From its opening passage of "the soft resonance of the sea," to the moonscapes of the desert, or the choreographed dance of circling birds, Janusz's prose is at its most hypnotic when she reveals the spiritualism of nature, and the arrogance of those who seek to destroy and control it. This novel is a lesson in hearing truths we have forgotten and might still, with humility, redeem."
—Jan Rehner, author of Missing Matisse, Just Murder and On Pain of Death

"Few writers can embrace Barbara Janusz's breadth of vision — environmental degradation, politics, social commentary, mythology and anthropology — and couple it to a compelling narrative with superb descriptions of the exterior landscape as a "mirror" of the inner psychological state. An auspicious beginning for a writer who understands that ancient paintings "in … caves" mirror our contemporary search for meaning in an increasingly complex world where the ethos of North American entitlement is becoming untenable. Mirrored in the Caves serves as an ancient metaphor for a contemporary crisis, and dramatizes what scholars repeatedly tell us — oftentimes to find our way forward we have to search backward."
—Elona Malterre, author of The Celts, Mistress of the Eagles and The Last Wolf of Ireland


Herizons Summer 2013
Reviewed by Kris Rothstein


"Elizabeth Thiessen is a Canadian professor studying isolated cave murals in Mexico. She connects with an attractive American colleague on her first day and is enjoying the landscape and camaraderie when disaster hits. Her daughter, a military intelligence officer, is taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Elizabeth is in shock for most of the story, continuing her work while desperately waiting for news via her ex-husband back home. She recalls her last trip with her daughter, wondering if she could have done more to keep her out of the military. And she considers her own choices in
light of growing up the daughter of a Polish freedom fighter. Elizabeth is a complex
and smart woman, and while she remains rather distant and aloof, it is refreshing to read about a female character who is much more than a literary stereotype.

Much of the novel concerns neolithic ideas about cosmology and spirituality, and the book treats this subject (and ideas in general) with gravity and intelligence. While some of the writing is a conduit to providing academic information, the story remains an enlightening one about anthropology and human relationships. The style is formal—polished and proficient—and the Mexican setting is very vividly brought to life.

It is a slight disappointment that these worthwhile elements don’t add up to something extraordinary. The themes of survival, rites of passage and the geopolitical transformation of our own times offer tantalizing possibilities to take this story to another level. But they never quite coalesce in that magical way that makes a literary experience revelatory. Rather than drawing threads together or reaching a resolution, the story peters out. Still, this tale about motherhood and the questions that are at the centre of the human experience is full of intelligence and insight."

Copyright © Inanna Publications. Site development by In the Lost and Found & Nicole Chung.