A family curse haunts four generations of women.
Lulu, a world-class soprano, gives birth to her daughter, Kara, on the same night her beloved grandmother Ada dies. (“Proximity between birth and death runs in every family, but it seems to run especially close in ours.”) This is the family curse: each mother must give something up for her daughter, each daughter drawing new power by depleting the reserves of her mother. Kara’s birth—a difficult one—has rendered Lulu unable to sing. Doctor’s orders, technically. Also, fear: traditionally, new mothers in the family sing their daughters into this world—“Lending them our voices,” Ada had said, but for Lulu such a loan is an unbearable risk. “My voice is my everything,” she says. “To bring her into the world I lost my grandmother. If I lend her my voice, can I trust her to give it back?" Alone with the infant, the silent opera star fills her days with memories of the women who came before her: her mother, Sara, a jazz singer, exquisite and absent; her grandmother, Ada, who immigrated from Poland, pregnant, the only one of her siblings to escape the war; and finally the otherworldly Greta, the family matriarch and the root of the curse. One woman after the other, each more perfect and more musical than the last. Drawing inspiration from the myth of the rusalka and spanning four generations, from Poznán to Chicago to the stages of Paris, Arizona, and Ulaanbaatar, Celt’s family saga—steeped in folklore and vibrating with music—is as much about the power of storytelling as the fraught relationships between mothers and daughters. If the novel’s lyrical seriousness sometimes seems to weigh it down, it’s a small price to pay for such richness.
A haunting novel with real emotional depth, Celt's psychologically nuanced debut continues to resonate long after the last page has been turned.