Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon

3.5 stars, actually.

It’s hard for me to read a story where I get frustrated with the main character this much. Lil is an senior lady who works at a book store for George in New York. She gets up every day, walks to work, cleans the store, sells books, and spends quite a lot of time bemoaning the loss of her former life as a fairy– the exact fairy assigned to get Cinderella to the ball in all the fairy tales.

Only she messed up. She was banished to our human world and now toils and ages and regrets. And boy howdy does she regret. Lots of the book is taken up with her remembering the lake where she lived, her sister, flying around, and of course, her botched job at getting Cinderella to the ball. You see, Lil the fairy took on human shape and with it human desire, and things didn’t quite go like the fairy tale said.

Only when a young hairdresser walks into the bookstore, and her employer George needs a date for a fundraiser ball, Lil sees her chance at redemption. She can redo the terrible night and make things right and maybe the fairies will let her come home.

The story is very slow, there’s lots of wallowing in sensory details of lace, the smell of dust, the streets of New York and her memories. For instance, the phrase “hand on the back of his neck” etc. is used like six times in the last couple of chapters, and in her mind, Lil goes over and over her feelings of being in love and desire.

The problem was I wasn’t quite sympathetic. She seemed so passive and so wrong at the same time. She went about her routine like an automaton and seemed to not really listen to George or Victoria but only treat them like characters from her memory. I got really kind of over Lil about halfway through the book but stuck around for the variation on the Cinderella story.

Anyway, it wasn’t to my taste. Too much sensory detail, too much wallowing in angst, and then it turns out Lil might be an unreliable narrator, but so much happened in the past, that the “fun” of an unreliable narrator (at the end when its revealed, you can go back and rethink the scenes from the “more real” POV) was lost because all her memories didn’t involve George or Victoria, but fairies from her past. It was unsatisfying for me.

Still, for folks who like angst and poetic, sensory writing about emotions, this might hit them differently than it did me.