Memoirs of a Shape-Shifter
Hard cover, dust jacket, 6 x 9, 440 pgs.
Season: Fall, 2005
Plot summary (short)
Nikki Helmik, turning 40, has decided to leave her career as a lawyer and return to her hometown of Gloucester, Mass, after her parents die. She moves back into her childhood home, a small cottage on the edge of Dogtown, a forested preserve on the high ground of Gloucester, once home of witches, healers and prostitutes. When after several months of living there, Ernest Eveless, the owner of the largest fishing fleet in town, dies, Nikki surreptiously attends the funeral.
She is there because she once had a terrible crush on Ernest, the husband of the beautiful and cruel Rose Eveless, who was Nikki's mentor and guide when she was young, teaching Nikki all she knew about how to have power over men. But when Nikki spies Rose's son Philip—Nikki's age and recently returned from Europe—she falls for him in spite of herself. Promising herself she will only have a quick affair with the married Philip, Nikki instead falls in love with him, and months of torture and self doubt ensue, Nikki trying to escape her own feelings. When Philip, following the wreck of his boat, becomes severely injured, Nikki feels she might get free of him at last.
But she is summoned to Rose's mansion, where Rose is keeping her son in convalescence. Nikki would like to see Philip once more to make amends, but Rose has other ideas. Rose tells Nikki that the younger woman has betrayed her in loving her son, and she demands that Nikki locate for her a certain lost journal, supposedly written by Anne Cleves, a Druid princess and ancestor of Nikki, who once lived in Dogtown. The journal contains a secret of beauty which Rose is desperate to have.
Nikki knows nothing of any journal, nor of any connection in her family to Druids or magic. She nevertheless visits her mother's sister Meg in Salem, where Meg has a 'witch'shop. Meg gives Nikki a letter written by Nikki's mother, explaining that she and Meg both are Druids initiated into the mysteries of Celtic magic and lore, and that Nikki too, if she wishes, might become a Druid. While incredulous, Nikki nevertheless is attracted by the thought of power, and when her mother's letter explains about the lost journal of Anne Cleves, Nikki is sent on a journey to discover it.
After many ups and downs Nikki does discover the journal, with great difficulty and much help is able to translate it, and comes in a crashing conclusion to become initiated into the Druid circle, and by means of gaining a new understanding of love and power, resolves her love for Philip and enters a new life.