Some Kind of Fairy Tale
by Graham Joyce
"You were here on Christmas Day. I saw you. Sat outside. Too scared to come in."
Richie drained his glass and gave himself a refill. Almost as an afterthought he got up and carried the bottle over to Peter, splashing another measure into Peter's glass. He put his cropped, bony grey head dangerously close to Peter and jabbed an angry finger. "You're a fucker! A fucker! You hear that? A fucker, not speaking to me all this time. Fucker." He went back to his own seat, crashing back into the leather upholstery.
Peter wanted to say that it takes two to make a silence work. Instead he said, "You feel better now?"
Richie offered him a carnivorous smile. "Yeh, I do actually. I feel much better. I'm quite relaxed now.'
'Well that's good, 'cos I have something to tell you.'
'Tara came back.'One day, Tara disappeared into the Outwoods. Her family and the police searched for months and suspicion landed on her boyfriend. No body was ever found. Twenty years have past, and suddenly Tara reappears, looking barely older than when she left, and claiming she was stolen away by fairies. Old wounds break open as those she left behind struggle to accept her story and reintegrate her back into their lives.
This was a wild card book for me. No idea what to expect, no idea if it would be any good. Luckily, I really enjoyed it! The style shifts from chapter to chapter as the story is filtered through each character's perspective: the dad, the brother, the boyfriend, Tara, the shrink, the nephew, the sister-in-law. It moves from 1st person to 3rd person as the story's needs dictate. The post-modern lack of quotation marks at random intervals is a pet peeve of mine, but it certainly dictated tone and pace.
The family's stories are meaty and intricate, especially through the eyes of the brother and the boyfriend. Peter struggles with reconnecting with a sister who may be crazy, who still acts like a teenager while he has grown up. Richie, the boyfriend, was abused by the police and abandoned by Tara's family, almost convinced that he had murdered Tara and buried it in his unconscious. When Tara re-emerges, Peter and Richie, once best friends, struggle to re-find their friendship after so much pain. This is where the real heart of the story lies, I think, and where the author shines.
Peter's family is messy and poor and full of love. His wife, Genevieve is an amazing mother (almost super-humanly so) as she deals with the chaos matter-of-factly and selflessly.
However, the story falls apart with Tara. For one thing, I did not like her as a character. I felt she was reckless and flighty. Granted, she is a teenager, but I feel even a teenager should know not to get on a strange man's horse. Also, the story would work if fairy land was a desirable place to live. If you honestly felt you might be drawn to it. But nope. It is a weird hippy commune where they have orgies and gain strange knowledge of time and there are trippy bug flowers. It sounds awful. And yet Tara is drawn to it.
I did enjoy the overarching use of fairy tales and fairy tale imagery, though. The story is chock full of symbols: a bar called The White Horse, Jack (the son)'s e-mail as jackthegiantkiller, etc. The psychologist analyses Tara's story as if it is a fairy tale, finding archetypes and symbols that will hopefully unlock her subconscious to reveal what really happened to her. It is an interesting exploration of fairy tale analysis and if we can apply it to real life, or if that is absolutely absurd.
Despite it's flaws, I do recommend it for it's unique perspective. We usually hear the story of the girl who goes into fairy land. Very rarely do we get to hear the story of those she left behind.