Wednesday, July 29, 2009

REVIEW: Godmother, by Carolyn Turgeon

Godmother, by Carolyn Turgeon. Published 2009 by Three Rivers Press/Random House. Fiction.

It's easy to believe in a bookstore as the setting for a book about magic, fairies, legends and lore- a book just like Carolyn Turgeon's Godmother. Lil, the main character, is just the kind of female eccentric that fairy tales tell us live in such places. She's single, older and dowdy, and she's a fairy- and not just any fairy but the fairy, the fairy godmother of Cinderella- now banished and eking out a life in Manhattan. Every day she tucks in her wings and leaves her modest apartment for an enchanted bookstore run by a prince and visited, one day, by a young woman who just might be his princess.

Lil mourns the loss of her fairy life- her fairy sister Maybeth most of all- and longs for the day when she will be allowed back into the fairy world. Slowly she recounts the story of her banishment- how she fell in love with Cinderella's prince and ruined the fairy tale- and works to bring together her boss, George, with a lovely and free-spirited hairdresser named Veronica, whom Lil believes is his destined true love. If she does this, she thinks, she'll be forgiven, and readmitted to her sacred, special world.

And 90% of the book is just as sweet and charming and sugar-spun as I expected it to be, and I enjoyed that 90% very, very much. Turgeon's writing is light and engaging, and Lil, despite being a bit of a spinster stereotype, is highly sympathetic. Veronica and George are charming and likable, and made to be together in a believable way. Sometimes Turgeon has Veronica express some very un-princess-like insecurities that make her even more real and realistic but never break the spell. Godmother is also a compelling page-turner and I couldn't wait for this modern fairy tale to end as only fairy tales can, with happy ending for all.

And that's where it fell short for me. There is a significant twist at the end which has to change the reader's understanding of the entire book, and I was very disappointed that Turgeon chose to break the spell the way she does. Otherwise I would recommend the book with much greater enthusiasm but as it is I'll say this- read Godmother if you like light women's fiction but be prepared for a shock as you round the final corner! It turns out it's a very different fairy tale from the one I thought I was reading.

Rating: BORROW

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.