Charley Woods is a businesswoman who is struggling with everyday life and the twin pressures of family obligations and work. She’s guilt-ridden by the existence of her daughter, Jenny, who is in full-time care due to severe brain damage. When Charley suffers a heart attack in her office, she’s abruptly catapulted to Avalon, which may be the afterlife, or perhaps something in between.
Synopsis from Amazon.com: After Charley dies in her office chair, how is it that she finds herself propelled into the mysterious world of Avalon? Upon encountering an essence, which insists is her daughter – the one she knows she left behind – insanity battles with fear inside her mind. The further she delves, the more puzzling things appear, especially after she rises into the Orb of Caprice – a realm of fairies, talking flowers and goblins…and something else, something that lurks in the shadows ready to swallow her whole. Can she realise in time what it is she must do…or has she left it too late?
Gone is a story inspired by a true event.
In Avalon, Charley is met by the spirit of her daughter who introduces her to a cast of colorful characters. Some reach out to help her, others have darker intentions in mind. When she enters a realm of fantasy, called the Orb of Caprice, she’s sent on a quest that may lead to the answers she’s been seeking. She wants to solve the mystery of her daughter’s life and answer the questions about where she is and why she is there.
The author makes it clear from the beginning that this novel is inspired by her own daughter, a child who suffered severe brain damage and lived a short life. The author’s love, emotion and struggle with this overwhelming challenge comes through in every chapter.
The plot of the book is a classic hero’s journey through a strange and shifting realm teeming with fantastic creatures, some helpful and some hindering. Unfortunately the main character didn’t listen to most of them. It immediately drew parallels to Alice in Wonderland and the Oz novels. Each creature she encounters is the embodiment of a human value like patience, strength, fear, and love. Indeed, at one point I began to think of it as “Mary Sue’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
I had difficulties staying with the book and skipped vast swaths of it without feeling like I missed anything. In some cases, the lengthy explanations of the mechanical workings of Avalon got in the way of enjoying the creative imagery. In others, I was frustrated by the main character who was in a constant state of emotional upheaval. Every three or four paragraphs she swung through extreme emotions: fear, love, sorrow, bewilderment and anger. Charley herself questions her own sanity so frequently that it got old after a while. She wrestles with guilt, self-doubt, and the constant feeling that she is not “normal”. These emotions seem to be made manifest by the strange world she’s found herself in.
Like any hero’s journey, the novel does have an uplifting ending that was too “happily ever after” to believe. I would have preferred to read what happened between her exit from Avalon and resuming life in the real world. I felt there was more to be said in those places, instead of relying on memories of events that would have been powerful narrative on their own.
For myself, I give it two stars. It’s OK. When viewed in the light of the author’s real life experience, it could very well be an inspiration to others who have endured great loss.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This review originally appeared at The Bookie Monster