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Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story    by Carolyn Turgeon order for
by Carolyn Turgeon
Order:  USA  Can
Three Rivers, 2009 (2009)
Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Godmother, by Carolyn Turgeon, is a strange book. In the first chapter we are introduced to Lil, an old woman who works in a New York bookstore. She loves her job, her employer George, and the books, spending her time dusting and putting the shelves in order when she's not attending to customers. Books do get terribly out of order with all the pulling out and putting back that goes on in the course of a day. She has a favorite book, a fairytale that George keeps in a locked case and has no intention of ever selling: an old copy of the story of Cinderella. She loves the pictures and a special note handwritten inside the back cover in French, which translated means: 'All my old loves will be returned to me.' She believes this message is just for her.

At the end of the day we follow Lil to a diner where she's well-known to the proprietor. She hungrily wolfs down a hamburger and French fries, walking home to her little apartment after finishing her supper. She locks all the deadbolts on her door, much as we might imagine any New Yorker would, draws a bath, and settles into the hot water, relaxing and luxuriating in the experience - and then she unfurls her wings.

Wait, wings? As we travel back with Lil in the second chapter to the days when she was Cinderella's fairy godmother, we begin to understand the wings. However, the petite fairies that are described are hardly fully grown humans with wings on their backs. As this story unfolds, we lose some of our sympathy for little old lady Lil in New York and begin to wonder exactly where this unusual little story is going.

As I read the book, I kept wondering what audience it was written for. It doesn't seem to be aimed at children, who would not be pleased to find their fairy tale changed. I could not muster up much sympathy for any of the characters, so I have to assume that middle-aged women would not be the preferred audience. The story was interesting, but as it went on, I seemed to care less and less about any of the characters, both past and present. Lil was the only one who was well-developed, but as I got to know her better, I liked her even less than when she first started to tell her story of being a fairy in a past life.

The wings were a major problem. If she's been cast out of the fairy world into the human one, why does she have wings? They don't work and seem to be a terrible inconvenience for her. She has to bind them to her every morning when she gets dressed to go to work, and can only relax and let them free when she gets home, and they're messy, trailing perfect, white feathers everywhere she goes and practically filling the bathtub after she lets out the water.

The fairy story of Cinderella alternates with the story of Lil in the bookstore, as she tries to fix up her lonely boss, George, with a young woman named Veronica who comes into the store to sell books one day. The friendship that develops between Lil and Veronica, and Lil's attempts to transform her into a modern day Cinderella become a much more interesting story than the depressing old fairy world that Lil mourns. As I said, it's a strange book, and I can't say I liked it much. But maybe it wasn't written for me.

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