In this debut novel, a modern-day woman encounters a mysterious female spirit in a hand mirror, leading to her traveling to Mexico and uncovering family secrets.
Marie is alone in her grandmother Rose’s ancestral Connecticut home. Rose has just died, and Marie recalls that her grandmother made her promise that a certain silver hand mirror would never be sold. Marie goes to the gloomy bedroom where the mirror sits and turns it over. She sees a woman who looks just like her staring back at her. Through conversations with this spirit and assisted by a family lawyer, Marie learns that the woman in the mirror is Louise Theresa Guiterrez, the Mexican woman whom Rose’s father Charles had married while serving under Gen. Pershing during the Mexican Revolutionary War. Louise died in childbirth in that dark bedroom while Charles’ social-climbing mother did nothing to help her. Charles then followed through on his mother’s plan for him to marry wealthy Tillie, but he never recovered from Louise’s death or from other actions taken shortly thereafter. Rose learned of some of these secrets when she turned 21, but Marie now uncovers more of the story as she conducts additional research, then returns with the mirror to Mexico. Taking on the daunting task of making the spirit world believable, first-time novelist Lagone is largely successful. For example, the scenes in which Marie talks to the mirror could have been laughable, yet in this narrative, they hold surprising power. Unfortunately, Lagone decided not to set off dialogue with quotations marks, which creates a run-on effect that’s often difficult to decipher. Additionally, the rather intricate retelling of Louise’s story cuts among different times and perspectives (Louise, Tillie, the family lawyer, etc.), which still leaves many elements, including Marie, somewhat shadowy. Still, there’s plenty of promise here, culminating in a dramatic twist ending that, like the rest of the novel, would benefit from further development.
A potentially intriguing tale of magical realism marred by punctuation oddities and other narrative challenges.