Eleanor by Jason Gurley by: PNJbookreviews (~ J )
Two bubbles, back to back, a spark of light, a string severed in time. One brief, crushing moment and two bubbles float away from each other, forever severed and blowing away, each in their own iridescent way. Do the bubbles know they were together once? Can you miss something if you have no memory that they were ever there? What if only a thin red string reminds you of …something. Something familiar, something that carries with it a feeling, maybe a memory of that other bubble. Would you want to know if you knew this bubble? Watch it? Bend the shape of your bubble, stretching and bending to reach towards the other bubble. Would the other bubble recognize your presence? Would it also bend toward you? Time is after all fluid…what if you could go backward and forward through time and watch just snippets of that other bubble, would you? Would you want to fluidly move between time and place on that river of time?
Such begins the story of Eleanor and Esmerelda, twins that were extremely close, that in one violent moment were forever separated. Eleanor is left behind to watch her mother grieve so hard that she turns into an alcoholic, and watches her father leave the family when he can no longer deal with the drinking and sadness. She mourns for Esmerelda every day. So much in fact, that she can rip the space of time, sending her waves of sadness through and catching her sister’s attention. Eleanor starts having weird things happen to her such as walking through a door at school and ending up in another dimension. The time she spends in her alternate universe seems natural to her, while back home she has disappeared for longer periods of time that her only real friend starts to notice. If they can bend space and time to see each other, could it be possible that they could rewind time? While looking at the destruction, would they even want to? Would the one who holds Esmerelda even let her go? So many questions, so little answers, and what will happen if they just experiment? What happens if there really IS a reset button? What would you do as a 14-year-old girl that is desperately trying to heal the wounds of your family’s tragedy on your own?
Ostensibly, it’s the story of a young girl who is overcoming grief. On the surface, Eleanor goes on a quest to heal her family. But underneath, it’s also a story about her parental failure and growth. Eleanor is both the heroine and the grail. Through her parents the story explores, in a blunt, honest way, the claustrophobia of being the surviving sibling in an accident and just how powerful the idea of escaping from the pain can truly be. Eleanor sometimes fears she is giving up everything, even her very identity to protect her parents from their destructive paths as well as keeping the memory of her twin alive. She experiences the imagined relief of leaving it all behind. Whether through denial, death, or just plain escape, the characters become unbound from each other, free.
But as in every fantasy story, there are hidden prices to pay for abandoning Esmerelda. The themes of inadequacy and abandonment run through the second half of the novel. As the loving actions of Eleanor work on those around her, freedom turns to regret, and then to guilt and resentment, then at last, into empathy and forgiveness.
The overarching message seems to be that things happen. Everyday. As parents, as siblings, as people. Sometimes we get pretty close to doing the right thing. Other times we fail spectacularly, or things just spiral out of our control. If we find a way to forgive ourselves, both for what we have done and for what we’ve wanted to do, we may discover that those we love forgave us for the same things long, long before. Through magic, mystery, or just through blind navigation of dream like places, or traveling through doors we know nothing of, or what we will find, there just might be a second chance, or reset button if you will, for those of us who keep our eyes and senses open to the possibility.
For the author, Jason Gurley this was a magical, deep, emotional ride that he has presented for our imaginations. I’d read another novel by him anytime. Thank you for the depth of your creation Mr. Gurley, and for sharing your magical river of time.
*** I was given an ARC to post an honest review of this novel. ***