A sprawling saga of a young woman’s single-minded ambition to become a dancer set during the 1960s and ’70s.
Katie Rivers has the talent and drive necessary to be a prima ballerina, but she lives in the small town of Fortuna, New Mexico, where dance companies are scarce. At 15, Katie wins a scholarship to a prestigious ballet academy, but when an accident derails her big debut, her life starts to unravel. Her mother, incapable of giving her the consolation she needs, instead becomes an accessory to Katie’s self-destructive spiral. Katie believes leaving home, despite her parents’ objections, is her only recourse for healing. But she finds her goals just as tough to achieve in New York City as in Fortuna. While Katie’s away, her brother makes a decision about his military service that puts an even deeper crack in the family foundation. After years of self-imposed exile, Katie comes home to reunite her fractured family by any means necessary. Author Aylor (No Angel Hotel, 1987) provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of ballet and the lives of those who aspire to live in it. Her prose captures the beauty of the New Mexico desert or the disappointment Katie feels practicing with other students in a New York ballet studio (“Condensation fogged the mirrors and cried down the glass”). Although Katie’s father and brother express their own points of view, the central conflict is between Katie and her emotionally crippled mother. Katie’s personal growth comes at the expense of great suffering. As a minor point, her brother’s angst over the Vietnam draft lottery doesn’t quite reflect that the draft was winding down at that time.
Dysfunction and deferred dreams drive this intriguing, occasionally perplexing coming-of-age novel.