This one had so much imaginative promise, and I'd read some positive blog posts at some point. I should have at least liked it, if not loved it. But no. I was to experience no happily ever after, no infatuation even. I flat out just didn't like it.
It probably didn't help matters much that I read the Grimm brothers' "Cinderella" just before I read this. Did you know there is no fairy godmother in that version? There is no pumpkin coach. There are no footmen. Nothing happens at midnight. In fact, the slipper isn't even glass. It's golden.
Okay, this wouldn't really be a problem in and of itself. After all, the Walt Disney retelling of the Cinderella story is probably as much of a legend (if not more so) to us 21st-century Americans as the Grimms' version was to 19th-century Europeans. A novel that's the story of a fairy godmother who only showed up in the old tale recently (relatively speaking) could still have been brilliant -- especially a beautiful fairy who made the mistake of falling in love with the prince herself and who's been banished to New York City, where she is now an elderly woman working in a second-hand bookstore.
The problem, uneven writing notwithstanding (and I should be the last to complain about uneven writing, since my writing often resembles a dirt road just after the winter thaw. Nonetheless, I complain, blaming the editor, of course, not Turgeon. Turgeon is capable of writing beautiful prose. She just needed someone to come along and smooth some of the bumps that crept in from time to time), was that, throughout most of the book, I didn't find Lil, our fairy godmother, the least bit sympathetic. She becomes much more so at the end, but by then, it's way too late. Again, that could've been fine. I've read plenty of books I've enjoyed whose characters were unsympathetic. The problem is that I suspected Lil wasn't meant to be unsympathetic. If I'd suspected that, I could have gone with it, but I'm pretty sure the author wanted us to sympathize with her, and I just couldn't.
I did sympathize with other characters, like Veronica, the young woman Lil meets and believes has been sent for her redemption. In fact, I loved Veronica. I'd like to read a whole book about Veronica, who could've stepped right out of the pages of a Francesca Lia Block novel. The book was too much Lil and not enough Veronica.
Having said all this, I will note that I'm really glad I didn't abandon the book. I was sorely tempted to do so, and if I hadn't chosen to read it for the Once Upon a Time challenge, I'm sure I would have. Had I not read it to the end, you'd be reading here about how so much of the book didn't make sense, how I thought Turgeon was being purposefully elusive to give the book a dreamy quality and how she'd failed, filling her story with too many question marks that kept the rational mind hopping and that drowned out the dreamy, magical-thinking mind. The ending -- a shocker that I didn't see coming at all -- definitely explained everything and verified that Turgeon does, indeed, have a wonderful imagination. She's also extremely clever. She just didn't meld the two well enough in this book.
Really, the book should have worked for me. I'm sad that it didn't. I'd love to know what others think of it.