Three young women, shaken by mysterious episodes in which they transcend time and space, forge an unlikely friendship in Wolfe’s charming debut novel.
It’s the fall semester at Boulder, Colorado’s Stone College for juniors Jessie, Sara, and Isabel, but midterm exams are the least of these girls’ worries. For each girl, what started as a few unsettling sensations—such as hearing music when none was playing or inexplicably smelling salt water—becomes something far more intense. It turns out that each co-ed has access to a hidden world. Their experiences, which seem like premonitions, aren’t always pleasant: Jessie becomes trapped inside a maze; Isabel finds herself marooned in a seaside cave; and chains “slither up” Sara’s arms and legs. As pressures at home and school begin to mount, the girls escape to California for what’s supposed to be a fun-filled getaway. However, their baffling out-of-body incidents continue. During a visit to Hearst Castle, Jessie, Sara, and Isabel are drawn toward a marble statue depicting the goddesses Brilliance, Joy, and Bloom. Can the connections they establish with the deities help them conquer their fears and put an end to their otherworldly excursions? Or has it just brought them closer to the forces they hope to escape? Although several supernatural elements skirt around the plot’s edges, the focus of this tale is on friendship. Jessie, Sara, and Isabel find one another at a critical point, as each woman questions herself and her future. Although the strange places in which they find themselves can be unsettling, it’s a credit to Wolfe that the most memorable passages are set in the real world. One such scene comes early in the novel as Isabel, who struggles to connect with her parents, watches her mother loosen her father’s boots after the old man has fallen asleep in his recliner: “It was only in moments like this, just glimpses really, when she felt anything for them,” Wolfe writes. “And how horrible was that?” Other epiphanies reveal themselves just as quietly, making for an unexpectedly tender—and honest—coming-of-age tale.
An engaging fantasy story about letting go of the past and learning to love oneself.