As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

February 4, 2014

GODMOTHER by Carolyn Turgeon, 2009

Lil is an old woman who spends her days shelving rare books in a tiny Manhattan bookstore and lonely nights at home in her apartment. But Lil has an intriguing secret. Tucked and bound behind her back are white feathery wings–the only key to who she once was: the fairy godmother responsible for getting Cinderella to the ball to unite with her Prince Charming. But on that fateful night, something went terribly and beautifully wrong. Lil allowed herself the unthinkable: to feel the emotions of human beings and fall in love with the prince herself. For her unforgivable mistake, she was banished to live among humans. But then one day she meets Veronica and suddenly it becomes clear to Lil that she’s been given a chance at redemption. If she can find a soul mate for Veronica, she may right her wrong and return to the fairy world she so deeply longs for. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Julie, Children's lit enthusiast and pop culture geek

Lil is an elderly bookstore employee with a secret identity: she was once fairy godmother to Cinderella.  Although she was responsible for uniting Cinderella with her Prince Charming, Lil committed an unforgivable sin: Lil fell in love with the prince herself.  For years, Lil has lived among humans as punishment for this action.  When she meets Veronica, Lil wonders if she can help the young woman find
true love.  Will this act make up for Lil's prior indiscretion and let her return to the fairy world? I've always loved fairy tales, and I've loved their retellings and reimaginings for almost as long.  The stories are so rich and familiar, yet they hold the possibility to ask "What if?"  Carolyn Turgeon's novel, GODMOTHER, examines the question, "What if Cinderella's fairy godmother fell in love with Prince Charming?"

From this question unfolds a fascinating and creative narrative with an unlikely heroine.  Lil, Cinderella's fairy godmother, now an elderly woman, has an instantly strong and sympathetic voice.  For instance, she regretfully revisits her past mistakes:  "I never should have seen the prince up close, never even come within eyeshot of him, really.  My instructions had been specific, startlingly simple: Help
Cinderella get to the ball.  It didn't matter why, or that she was to go to the ball to fall in love with the prince as the fairy elders had decreed [. . .] This, here and now, was all wrong."

Turgeon's interpretation of "Cinderella," as the previous passage suggests, takes a darker tone that only intensifies as the book goes on.  Bittersweet memories saturate each page, and Lil's introspective details enrich the narrative while squarely situating Lil in a very real, harsh world.  In other words, Turgeon's novel is much closer to Grimm than Disney.  But the possibility for Lil's redemption keeps the reader going.  In the book, Lil's attempts to find a match for Veronica, a young friend she meets one day at a bookstore, feel more like high-stakes magic than a romantic meet-cute.  And as complications ensue, including the uncontrollable growth of Lil's wings, the tension thickens.  Turgeon also reveals Lil's past in flashbacks, a tantalizing device to make the readers yearn for the big picture of the fairy tale we thought we knew.

Aside from the gripping plot, Godmother boasts an extremely readable narrative style and detailed settings and characters.  I particularly loved the cozy bookstore setting and the Veronica character, a young woman who loves anything vintage or Old Hollywood.  She felt like she could be a friend of mine, and she added lighter moments to Lil's deep regret over the past and fear for the future.

Godmother's ending defied my expectations in a major twist.  I don't want to give any hints, but, based on my readings of other reviews, the twist is controversial.  I love a good shock, especially when it's not outside the realm of possibility, so I enjoyed the ending immensely.  It made me want to re-read the entire novel to search for clues I may have missed--or simply to enjoy Turgeon's gorgeous writing and likable characters once more.

Market: Adult fiction
Violence: No violent scenes, although a past crime is implied
Language: None that I recall; there may be 1-2 mild uses
Sensuality: Mild recollections of fairy tale love
Adult Themes: Loss/grief, regret, love 

1 comment:

Constance Chi said...

this review sounds interesting. i'd love to read this book! thanks for putting up this review! :)