Thursday, February 25th, 2010
The Short Take:
A modern fairy tale, this whimsical yet poignant first novel embraces the universal themes of love and loss, courage and commitment, avoidance and acceptance. Though it includes miniature cattle with iridescent moth wings, the glass-footed girl of the title, and other fantasy elements, the emotional nuances and interactions of the characters ring entirely real and true.
I admit a weakness for books with fantasy elements. But this one is in a very special category; for while the fantasy elements could have been replaced by real ones — say, substituting a highly aggressive cancer for Ida’s transformation into glass — this book’s impact would have been drastically diminished. It is the unfamiliarity of these fantasy elements that gives you fresh eyes for familiar situations.
Shaw’s descriptive style is also strangely seductive. While spare, it is highly impactful. You feel the chill and dampness in the frigid bog air outside as well as the pressing claustrophobia of the interior spaces.
You could call this a love story — every character in it is motivated by feeling love, avoiding love, or both. You could also compare it to the fairly tales of Hans Christian Anderson, with characters that need to experience pain as part of their path to finding love. It’s a lovely read on many levels. I’m so glad I got to experience it.
A Little Plot:
Ida MacLaird goes to the boggy, frozen world of St. Hauda’s Land in hopes of finding a solution to a terrifying problem — her feet have turned to clear glass and the transformation seems to be spreading. On an earlier — and healthier — visit she had a chance encounter with a man who she thinks can help her. Ida enlists a reluctant Midas Crook to help her in her quest. Midas would rather hold the world at a distance by interacting with it only through the viewfinder of a camera. Together they encounter a man who protects a herd of miniscule flying cattle, the man who still obsessively loves Ida’s late mother, and a woman who claims she can provide a cure. But time is growing short.
For more about author Ali Shaw and this book, click here.