A young girl gains the ability to see the death of anyone she touches in this debut “modern(ish)” fairy tale.
Waking on her 13th birthday, Lily kisses her father good morning and is struck by a vision of how he will drown that very day. Frightened by this new talent, which seems to have come to her just as her body is beginning to change into that of a woman, Lily feels as if there is an “other girl” inside her, one whom Lily is determined to keep locked away. When Lily’s father does indeed drown, her mother—an outsider who has never liked their strange little fishing village—whisks the girl away across the wooden footbridge that is the village’s only connection to the outside world, a bridge whose other end is always shrouded in fog. Thus begins a rare caliber of story that should transport and submerge readers in a fantastic and fantastical adventure. Will Lily survive in the world beyond her village? Will she be able to rid herself of this new and terrible power to foresee death? Will she contain the “other girl” developing inside of her? Once started, Lily’s mystical and often macabre journey is nearly impossible to stop reading, as she seeks answers and finds herself in surprising company, such as that of the Rev. Silas Everyman, “a miracle worker,” and his traveling evangelical circus. Despite some seemingly familiar fairy-tale tropes—a witch named Baba Yaga lives in the woods and eats children, for example—little is as it first appears. Like many of the characters, Baba Yaga is more complex than she seems; is she hunting Lily or helping her? Not even Baba Yaga knows for sure. As Andersen has done for the book’s beautifully bizarre yet detailed illustrations, Ford has filled his novel with customs and side stories—some no more than a sentence or two—that make the world feel real, wonderful, and horrifying simultaneously. And though in many ways it seems nothing like one, this novel is at heart a fairy tale in the grand, dark tradition of the best of such stories; the book speaks to the reader’s deepest fears and highest hopes, told through the odyssey of a girl who is scared by what is happening around her and within her.
In this moving and magical literary journey, a heroine grapples with a terrifying power.