It's a very rare thing when I encounter a book wherein every time I pick it up I have no real sense of where the story is going, and that is completely fine. The POV changes, as does the timeline at a few points, and yet I was never confused or itchy to move on to another section. Each chapter felt like a new piece of a larger puzzle, and while I didn't know what the picture would be until I was nearing the end, I had faith it would all fit together. And what I lovely puzzle it was.
It's hard to put into words how special this book is. It captures the feel of rural America so well, just as it also uses mythology, fairy tale, and the surreal with just as much skill. I haven't read many things that felt quite the way this book did - perhaps Ocean at the End of the Lane. There are portions of the book that are so dreamlike I wasn't certain if they were indeed real, or imagined, and that felt appropriate rather than lacking in some way. It pulled me along just as the characters were pulled along by their own stories and circumstances.
The story itself is so rich with themes and symbolism a Literature class could spend weeks discussing its complexities, yet it is enormously readable and well paced. The writing is so deft and beautiful I didn't even notice the layers until I set it down and found some time to reflect. The fairy tale expectations are subverted again and again, leaving you to reevaluate your preconceptions at each turn.
This book has a lot to say about beauty, and perspective. About being outcast or other. And most especially about being a woman. There were sections I read and felt like I had been punched in the gut, thinking "Yes. That." It's so rare to have a book so perfectly describe the small moments that bombard you as a woman, the casual sexism, without it being The Point of the book. While this is a theme that guides the plot it was nice to also see it at work on smaller levels, illustrating how it isn't just a plot point, but rather an every day part of these womens' experiences and lives.
If a sleepy little book about subtle magic, walking in the world as a woman, mysteries, growing up, and just a sprinkle of myth sounds like it might strike a chord I can't recommend this book enough.