July 21, 2012

BOOKS: Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Graham Joyce (2012)

The woods near Tara Martin's village have always been a mysterious place. Some would say haunted, some would say enchanted, but strange things happen there. But it's still a shock when 16-year-old Tara disappears without a trace from those woods. It's even more of a shock when she turns up at her parents' door 20 years later, seeming to have barely aged a day.

The mystery of what happened to Tara is at the heart of Graham Joyce's Some Kind of Fairy Tale, a lovely novel that combines fairy tale tropes with magical realism and outright fantasy.

Tara's story is farfetched, to say the least. She claims that a man on a white horse took her away to another world, and that she's only been gone for six months. Her parents aren't convinced, but are so thrilled to have her back that they're not going to press the issue. Her brother, Peter, on the other hand, will have none of it; he arranges for Tara to see a psychiatrist, and his own family begins to feel the strain caused by Tara's reappearance.

Most profoundly affected, perhaps, is Tara's old boyfriend, Richie; though nothing was ever proven, most of the locals have assumed for 20 years that Richie was responsible for Tara's disappearance, and the cloud of suspicion has made it difficult for him to get on with life.

Joyce tells the story from multiple points of view, and each of his narrators has a distinctive and convincing voice. He's taken a variety of familiar storytelling motifs and re-imagined them, combining them in ways that make them new and fresh. His prose is clean and spare, never getting in the way of the story or drawing attention to itself. It's a marvelous book.

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