1.13.2013

Book Review \\ The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner

Renaissance is a word with hope infused in every letter.

Meg's father promised that he would take her to Florence, Italy, a place where their ancestry runs deep. It seems like his time is taken by more important matters, however, like divorce, remarriage, and some shady business ventures. Meg is no longer a little girl, and her hopes of a journey with her father across ocean waters is fading fast. When she's asked to look over a Florence memoir as part of her editing job, Meg begins to ponder her own dreams of the Italian city. Through Sofia's book and Nora's history, Meg might just discover the Florence she's always been searching for.

I was a fan of Susan Meissner from the moment I closed the pages of one of her earlier books, The Shape of Mercy. The way she weaves history and present-day, imagination and reality, is captivating. The Girl in the Glass is no different, leading readers into the world of Meg, Sofia, and Nora, three very different women on the outside but very similar at heart.

The first two-thirds of the book were a little slow for me. It was a little hard at first to understand Meg's captivation with Florence and art, since I am quite content to remain at home and prefer literature over the painted and sculpted. Little by little, though, The Girl in the Glass picked up the pace until I couldn't help but be interested in Florence and Nora's history. And while descriptions of the art in Florence left me lost at times, a quick internet search helped me to understand at least partially Meg's awe. Since I'm not at all a wine nut, I could only click my tongue at the prevalence of the beverage and wonder why someone would enjoy something that tasted "earthy" or "peppery." No, thank you.

The Girl in the Glass has a very dreamy, soul-searching feel to it. Each woman in the story is trying to figure out who she is and how she fits in the world. (I'm sure most of us can relate.) The underlying desire to escape into created worlds of imagination is always present (and not always underlying). If you read the book you'll understand what I'm saying. The Girl in the Glass appears to end by saying that we must face reality, even if we don't want to. But then it suggests that if our dreams don't hurt anyone else, maybe we can keep them anyway and think of them when we're feeling weary of reality. It's interesting, definitely, but I don't really know if I believe any of it. I might want to, but, though Meg might think otherwise, believing something does not make it real.

The Girl in the Glass is a well-written, captivating novel. It gives a lot of food for thought. Unfortunately, the characters fail to see that there is no happiness, no feeling of coming home, no ability to cope with reality, without God. Maybe there are portions of those feelings, but they aren't what they could be. I'm not trying to come across as condescending. What's sad to me is that this knowledge is right in front of them, in every painting and sculpture they admire and in every Italian landscape they stand in awe of. I definitely liked the book, but I wanted more.

Many thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book.

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