Skylight Confessions- 2007- 150 Pages
Arlyn, 17, with her shimmering red hair,is utterly alone in the world until she pulls John Moody into her orbit and refuses to let go. An architectural student at Yale, he is the lackluster son of an architect famous for building a Connecticut house known as the Glass Slipper. They have no sane reason to marry but their sexual attraction drives them to marry.
In a variation on the nursery rhyme about the woman who lived in a shoe, the mismatched couple dwell precariously in the comfortless glass mansion with their solemn son, Sam, and, later, a daughter, Blanca, who isn't even a year old when cancer claims Arlyn. But death doesn't dispel Arlyn's powers. As birds inexplicitly flock to the Glass Slipper, dishes break without being touched, and soot rains down, Sam, a promising artist, loses his way in a labyrinth of narcotics, even as help arrives in the form of a young woman also haunted by her dead.
There are lots twists and turns. The dead haunt the living. There is an adorable Bassett Hound that worships Cynthia, an adulterous who becomes John Moody's second wife. The fatherhood of Moody's daughter is a solved mystery.
Skylight Confessions is divided into three fifty page chapters. One is devoted to the early years with John and Arlyn. By the second section John's son Sam with Arlyn has become an uncontrollable teenage drug addict. Meridith, 28 an art history graduate, joins the mix as the family nanny, hired to try to save Sam, in chapter two.
Cheaper three finds 25 year old Blanca living in London. She comes back to Conneticut for John Moody's funeral and we meet Will, Sam's son.
Blanca lives very much the Reading Life, she owns a book store in London devoted to fairy tales.
"The attraction of fairy tales was how aware such tales were of these boundaries — countries were divided into kingdoms, kingdoms into castleholds, castles into towers and kitchens. Fairy tales were maps formed of blood and hair and bones; they were the knots of the subconscious unwound. Every word in every tale was real and as true as apples and stones. They all led to the story inside the story."
Everyone in Skylight Confessions has had what they hoped would be their future rendering into something to dread by a death of a loved one.
Here is why I loved Blanca:
"Blanca collected books from the Trash and at jumble sales and at church-fair bins the way other people rescued orphans. She kept a stack of books near the tub so she could read in the bath, even though the edges of the pages turned moldy. She read on trains and on buses, which often made her late as she was forever missing her stop. She could not sit at a restaurant without a book in her hands and sometimes she became so engrossed she forgot her cutlet or her pasta or her dinner companion completely. A dear friend, a devoted friend, Jessamyn Banks, who had been Blanca’s roommate during that dreadful term when Sam died, had gently suggested that perhaps Blanca was creating a buffer between the real world and the imagined world. In response Blanca had laughed, something her friends rarely heard. “Well, good for me. I can’t think of anything I’d like more.”
Skylight Confessions has elements of the supernatural and magic realism.
The ending is emotionally satisfying after the heartbreaking events depicted, the dysfunctional family where one child escapes in drugs the other into the Reading Life.
Inspired by Blanca, I purchased the complete, 497, fairytales Collected and curated by Andrew Lang.
I have begun her Magic Lesson- A Prequel to Magic Lessons.
ALICE HOFFMAN is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The World That We Knew, The Rules of Magic, Practical Magic, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Red Garden, The Dovekeepers, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, The Marriage of Opposites, and Faithful. She lives near Boston.