Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review-- The Girl in the Glass

"The Girl in the Glass" by Susan Meissner (WaterBrook Press, 2012 )

Since her grandmother promised her as a child that she would take her to Florence someday, Meg has dreamed of little else. Then after her grandmother passes away, the promise to take her to Florence passes on to Meg's unstable father. Finally, after years of saying they would go only to let her down, it looks like he is finally going to pull through. Then everything goes wrong, and it seems that Meg's job as editor for a travel book company is the closest she is going to get to Italy. Her father let her down. Again. Or did he? When a ticket to Florence shows up on Meg's doorstep, she risks everything and takes the trip, hoping her dad will be waiting on the other end, but when she arrives no one is there to meet her. It falls to Meg's clients, brother and sister Lorenzo and Reneta, as well as Sophia, a woman who's memoir Meg is trying to convince her company to publish, to host her visit. Amid the tours of awe-inspiring cathedrals, statues and paintings, Meg discovers, not only the beauty of an ancient city, but the complexity of the human soul, and the necessity of dreams.

This book has a pull akin, perhaps, to the tantalization of Florence itself, and once I hit a certain point it was difficult to put it down. Though this is the first of Meissner's work I have read, I caught on quickly to her distinct style; while some authors paint their stage and leave most detail to the imagination, Meissner seems to pinpoint and give detailed descriptions as she chooses, leaving most of the broader setting to the imagination. While I found her style tedious at times, I can not fault a writer for having a voice, and she is good at what she does. The characters were well-rounded (we meet a diversity of personality types within these pages, not just generic cutouts), and the plot alluring, though I did stumble a little over the first several chapters while I waited for the story to get moving, but when it does begin to move it holds its pace well.

As for the overall message, I'm somewhat torn. I consider myself a dreamer, but can we make something true simply because we believe it to be so? This book seems to suggest that we can. On the other hand, Meg does draw the conclusion that dreams are good as long we know where the dream stops and where reality begins; both have a place. I like to think that dreams can change reality. While we cannot always change the circumstances around us, we can choose the attitude with which we handle them, and that can make reality easier to bear. A dream, a simple dream, seems empty if it does not contain some substance. I feel that Meissner's characters are dreamy creatures who move to the winds of their emotions, and by the end of the story have at least half learned that we can take charge of our own destiny and make our dreams, the ones worth having, a reality.

The fact that this novel is considered Christian and didn't seem very Christian both pleased and disappointed me: on one hand I do not like overly "religious" books that manipulate a story to make God into something that He isn't, but on the other hand it perhaps could have carried a more resonating message of the healing and change that is possible when we look to God for our strength.

Overall, an enjoyable read, and I would pick up another one of her books in the future.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.