The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein has been released a month early. Or so Amazon tells me.
Book description from the publisher:
An ages-old family secret breaches the boundaries between reality and magic in this fresh retelling of a classic fairy tale. When Berkeley student Will Taylor is introduced to the mysterious Feierabend sisters, he quickly falls for enigmatic Livvy, a chemistry major and accomplished chef. But Livvy’s family—vivacious actress Maddie, family historian Rose, and their mother, absent-minded Sylvia—are behaving strangely. The Feierabend women seem to believe that luck is their handmaiden, even though happiness does not necessarily follow. It is soon discovered that generations previous, the Feierabends made a contract with a powerful, otherworldly force, and it is up to Will and his best friend to unravel the riddle of this supernatural bargain in order to save Livvy from her predestined fate.And here is a slew of blurbs for the book found on her website:
"Goldstein's complex and ingenious plot transplants the forest realm of European folktale, where witches grant wishes with strings attached and you'd better be careful which frog you kiss, into the sun-drenched hills of Northern California in the 1970's—and beyond."There is also a review by Charles de Lint on his site. It's at the bottom and I will share the first few paragraphs but click through to read it all. He also compares Goldstein to R.A. MacAvoy which is a wonderful thing to me being a MacAvoy fan:
—Ursula K. Le Guin
"This entrancing book perfectly captures the subconscious logic of fairy tales—you'll find yourself believing it all, and wishing you could go to these places yourself, with all their wonders and perils."
"It isn't always a blessing to be as original and erudite a writer as Lisa Goldstein has been from her very beginnings. Much of the reading public prefers its literature comfortably pre-read, so to speak, and one can't ever be sure where Lisa's going with a story, an idea, a character, or even a single sentence. I don't know what to compare The Uncertain Places to; even in books like The Red Magician or The Alchemist's Door, she's never before created characters like the Feierabend sisters, or a legend like that of the Bondmaid. The Uncertain Places continued to surprise me on almost every page—and, as a writer, filled me with raw, disgraceful envy. Boy, I wish I'd thought of that one…"
—Peter S. Beagle
"It's fitting that a spider is the symbol of the elf-struck family in this book, because Lisa Goldstein's prose is more than a little like a spider's web: so deceptively simple that you could take it for granted until the angle of light changes and its full beauty is suddenly revealed…a tale as tangling, tricksy and enchanted as the Fair Folk themselves."
"From Lisa Goldstein, one of our most subtle and enduring writers, comes this exquisite interweaving of fairy tale and modern life. The Uncertain Places demonstrates that love and the stuff of legends are sometimes indistinguishable and share the same dark bed."
"A gripping story that twists with compelling dream-logic; Goldstein's fairytale family radiate believable unreality, and the faerie realm contained herein evinces the perfect mix of terror and attraction. Start reading this at your peril; once I did, I couldn't stop until I was done."
"It's an engaging look at Northern California in the 70's by way of the Brothers Grimm…a shrewd and satisfying venture down the crooked paths and unpredictable byways of the Otherworld."
—Patricia A. McKillip
"It's all about family values: ancient legacies, young love, dumb luck and home cooking. And no one understands better than Lisa Goldstein that terror is a dish best served cold."
Has it really been nine years since The Alchemist's Door, Lisa Goldstein's last book under her own byline? It's been a long wait, but The Uncertain Places is one of those delightful books that are worth the wait. It combines all the things that I like best about Goldstein's work: great, believable characters; a well-defined setting (this time it's 1970s Berkeley); and subtle magic that plays by the rules. It doesn't hurt that her prose is so readable: comfortable as an old friend even as the story takes odd or dangerous turns.
Will Taylor's best friend Ben is dating Maddie, one of three daughters of the Napa Valley Feierabend family. When Ben convinces Will to accompany him to their family home, Will quickly falls for Maddie's sister Livvy, a relationship that continues long after Ben and Maddie have broken up. But while Ben is no longer close to the Feierabends, Will discovers that his friend has been researching the family.
The reason for this has its ties to a lost fairy tale, collected by the Brothers Grimm but never published. Called "The Bondsmaid," it tells of a family who make a bargain with faerie in which they give up one of their children to seven years of sleep; in return, this sacrifice ensures the family's prosperity. Ben wants a piece of that luck for himself.