E. Rathke’s fantasy novel, Glossolalia is named for the religious phenomenon of speaking in tongues. The book also comes with a secondary title, that has an evangelical, and slightly sinister flavor: Don’t Scream It on The Mountain.
The book is set in a fictional pre-industrial society that evokes Pacific Island life before the colonists arrived. It’s a familiar but involving story of innocence lost, both by its young protagonist, Aukul, and his society. The story opens at a time of great excitement and apprehension for him as he settles into a new role as chief of his tribe.
The catalyst for greater change in Aukul’s life is the arrival of an orphaned, displaced boy, Ineluki, who hails from a distant land. Though otherworldly in appearance and decidedly non-conformist (the novel mentions often that his dress is that expected for women of the place and time), Ineluki arrives with startling fluency in a language he shouldn’t understand and a wealth of stories. He’s taken in at once by the locals as an adoptive son, though each short chapter hints at troubling consequences to come from this act of charity. Add to this, Ineluki’s stories begin to challenge the realities of the people.
The coming of this beautiful, mysterious boy coincides with a moment of succession within the tribe, new love, disturbing knowledge, and a terrifying sickness, which involves dancing trance-like to the death, begins to afflict the villagers.
Written in a similar anthropological yet naïve style as the out-of-print classic Island Boy (by Robert R. Harry) though enlivened with frank hunting and female-led sex scenes, Glossolalia evokes well a tense, elegiac feeling of a people on the cusp of seismic change.