Review by Shellie: The Uncertain Places ~ by Lisa Goldstein
“…he thought they only showed themselves in what he called the uncertain places. Where the sea meets the land, for example… or inside meets outside… or at dawn or twilight…” page 171
About: Set in early 1970’s California within the now famous wine growing region of Napa Valley, our narrator Will is studying for his degree at UC Berkley when he meets Livie, one of the Feirbrand girls. It’s almost “love at first sight”. However, Will notices something odd about Livie’s family. Something just below the surface and uncertain – inconsistencies, weird happenings, secrets between the Feirbrands, and most significantly their unbelievable prosperity.
When things start to become imbalanced, as they tend to do, and the truth about the reason for the family's wealth begins to percolate out, Will must act to save Livie from an uncertain faction. Termed “those people” they are obviously not completely of our world, and are tricky. Just how conniving Will does not completely understand until things become uncontrollable and they take a trip through the figurative “rabbit hole” into this other realm.
Thoughts: So who are “those people”? There is a clue; the book is based upon one of the lost stories of the Brothers Grimm - the Bondmaid’s tale. So fairies it is. And with this author’s take they are a blend of images from a variety of sources and not one single shape or size. There is definitely an “Alice in Wonderland” quality to this story.
It’s an adult novel that I think older teens may like it too, since the main characters move from early college into adulthood. And of course it’s perfect for those interested in “fairy stories” or retellings. The only niggle I had is that while reading it I noticed a difference in the writing style from one section to another. For me it was page turning in areas while in other parts reading it was a slight struggle.
However there is no denying the book has an incredible premise and is jammed packed with amazing and creative details. I consider it a very worthy read, especially for readers interested in a non-fantastical primary setting since the story contains some historical details. While set mainly in the 1970’s the text travels from prohibition era through till the mid 1980’s, with a great bit where the Golden Gate Bridge had yet to be built. I liked that a lot, but my favorite part is the ending which culminates in the reason why there is less magic in the world today. I give this story a 3.5 stars. It has a fabulous setting and I enjoyed the read. It’s a perfect book for readers who enjoy “modern-ish” fantasy containing “those people”.
The Uncertain Places ~ by Lisa Goldstein US|UK|Canada. 240 pages; Tachyon Publications (June 15, 2011) For more information please see our incoming books post including The Uncertain Places.
Mini Bio: Lisa Goldstein is the author of a bundle of speculative fiction novels, collections, and short stories. She has been the finalist for various important awards in the field such as the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. She lives in the Northern California bay area.