In e-mails to her daughter, Grace explores her feelings of fear and love, the preciousness and tensions in her relationships—particularly with her husband—and her place within the cultural traditions of Appalachia. She writes of everyday happenings as well as happenings in past lives of herself and her family. Resolution comes in a way that she does not anticipate.
From Kirkus Reviews
In this debut novel, a middle-aged woman explores past lives and present tensions in emails to her daughter.
“I was Sha Li, a priestess of the highest order, a worshipper of Kuan Yin, goddess of compassion and mercy.” So begins
the first of many notes, via email, that Grace Heronheart drafted (and mostly sent) to Alyce, her college-aged, eldest
daughter, just after Grace quit her 20-year job as a school psychologist in rural West Virginia. After noting that “our
families probably think that I lost my marbles,” Grace tells Alyce that she’s actually “finding my rainbow colored,
multifaceted marbles” by pursing her dream of being a writer. She provides her daughter with everyday-life updates,
particularly regarding Alyce’s disapproving father; she also shares the story of her past incarnation as the aforementioned
Sha Li, a secondary wife of a Chinese warrior. She tells tales of other past lives, such as Zete, a “dark-skinned” tribal
“prophetess,” and Mourning Dove, a Native American who fell in love with a trapper. Along the way, Grace details the
roles that Alyce and the rest of her present-day family played in these past existences. By novel’s end, she tells her
daughter that she’s come to the conclusion that “I only write my own script. I cannot write anyone else’s,” and embarks
on “a new adventure, and a new beginning.” First-time author Furst has written an engaging tale of midlife awakening
that reads like a memoir, even as it skillfully deploys past-life metaphors. Grace’s missives combine the relatable tone of
a typical email from a mom (such as when she applauds Alyce’s choice in boyfriend) with striking tableaux of imagined
lives. Sha Li’s tale is particularly poignant and reminiscent of the works of Amy Tan and Jung Chang. It’s rather
ambitious to cover three past lives and a conflict-ridden present, however, and the “P.S.” about Grace’s modern-day
decision comes as a rather abrupt bombshell. Overall, though, Furst effectively sketches a character that lives out her
assertion that “sanctuary can be found in all my rainbow stories.”
A memorable depiction of an emerging writer exploring the many prisms of her voice.