Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: On Little Wings


Sometimes you find a book that thrills you on the first few pages and then peters out after a while, leaving you disappointed, yawning, and reaching for a different book. However, once in a great while you encounter a novel that entices you on the first page and beguiles until the last word. “On Little Wings” by Regina Sirois is such a book. Published in 2011 by CreateSpace, it’s the debut novel of a writer who creates unforgettable characters and dresses their story in exceptionally well-crafted prose that sometimes borders on poetry.

For example: “The moon had come out of her dressing room arrayed in a streaming, white gown. A dark circle surrounded her in the sky where no stars dared to stand too close… The haughty moon glared through her round crater eyes and I felt the chilly breeze as she brushed her brilliant skirt aside to avoid me as she stepped across the night.”

Who writes like that anymore?!? Not enough authors! This book is virtually devoid of clich├ęs. Readers sometimes skip narrative passages to get to the dialogue and find out what happens next. That would be a mistake with this book because the narrative passages and descriptions deserve to be savored and pondered. Sirois has woven a complex, believable plot skillfully with threads of exceptionally delicious prose.

“On Little Wings” is a first-love coming-of-age story that has interesting teenage characters just as complex as the complicated adults who populate the pages of this book. Sixteen-year-old Jennifer, an only child, finds an old photograph in the back of a book while researching in the family library for a school assignment. It is the beginning of her discovery of family secrets. When her family was torn apart by death twenty years before, Jennifer’s mother Claire left home, and never spoke to, or about, her sister Sarah again. Now the picture of a young woman who looks a lot like Jennifer opens the door to the unknown world of her mother’s childhood.

Abandoning her comfortable life with her parents and best friend in the wheat fields of Nebraska, Jennifer seeks her Aunt Sarah in the fishing village of Smithport on the untamed coast of Maine where she struggles to understand why her mother lied to her for sixteen years. Across the grey, rocky cove Jennifer meets Nathan Moore, a young reluctant genius surrounded by women who need him to be their brother, father, friend, provider and protector. In this dramatic setting, with this fascinating, sometimes brooding young man, Jennifer also finds her first love.

Assorted hilarious as well as heartbreaking stories of the people she meets in Smithport—people who knew her mother as a child—combine to teach Jennifer more about herself as she pieces together her mother’s history. But the real reason why her mother left is still a mystery until Jennifer manages to do what has always seemed impossible—bring her mother home.

As the teenage and adult worlds collide, both are turned upside down, but both eventually find a satisfying grownup resolution. I'm giving this book as many stars as possible.