The simple portraits, photos and drawings throughout the book keep the reader in a state of “belief.” You know it’s a novel, yet you feel it’s the truth. You understand they are “characters,” yet you feel their presence. You read their pain, confusion and intense emotions and begin to lose yourself in them as you become one with the characters. It’s a rare ability for any author to be able to bring so much life to a novel and Janet Kay does it with ease. There’s generally more “fiction” than “reality” in most novels; while this time the exact opposite seems to hold true and the way Janet Kay brings it all together is incredible.
Beth Calhoun starts out as a character that you will find yourself thinking, “come on, can you really be this weak?” only to find that within a short time you see the true strength and magnitude of her character come out as she becomes a whole new and complete woman. Haunted by so many “ghosts.” past and present, Beth is forced to face many of them when she least expects it as a phone call to tell her the woman who raised her as a child, her Nana, is dying. As Beth rushes to her side, Nana brings Beth to face a reality that perhaps she should have faced long ago. She needs to know the facts, face ghosts of both past and present, and find strength from deep within - but how will she do it?
Beth was raised by her Nana after witnessing the drowning death of her own mother one day while swimming. Her mother never spoke of whom Beth’s father was and Nana never offered any real answers. As Beth moved on in her life, she disappeared from Nana’s life diving head first into an abusive relationship with a man she thought she loved. His constant verbal and physical abuse kept Beth at arms length from anyone. She had no friends, she kept her distance from the only ‘family’ she had and she was never more alone when he announced that he was leaving her for a younger, pregnant girlfriend he flaunted around. Was this a sign for Beth to finally move on, would she have the strength? She didn’t have time to question, as the phone rang calling her to the bedside of her dying grandmother. But would Nana go to her grave with Beth never knowing the truth about her life?; or would she leave Beth with enough information to start over again, only this time stronger and even more full of life and desire?As time progresses, Beth finds herself not only being the strong woman she knew she could be, but she learns about her past and builds her future. Love wasn’t something that should hurt but was she ready to allow herself to be open to the possibilities? Would she ever find out her true heritage? Could she find out who her father was and would he want to be a part of her life or she a part of his? Why was it all such a mystery?
The plot is intriguing, keeping you moving quickly through the 253 pages until you realize you’ve not only found the answers but have become a part of the characters. The setting is created in a beautiful, rural, Canadian town of Ontario with rustic lodges, beautiful lakes and simple beauty that brings out the hidden nature lover in all of us. The fact that the places mentioned are real and even brought out in detail to you both during the tale and at the end with a table of resources makes this book a piece of fiction with the perfect touch of reality.
When so much is at stake there’s no question as to whether you delve in full strength and to watch the main character, literally, turn into a new person with a new life and self-identity - an amazing journey to take. “Waters of The Dancing Sky” by Janet Kay will keep you intrigued, inspired and hopeful. The way the author intertwines reality with fiction simply leaves one to wonder if there aren’t such beautiful possibilities out there for us all.
Waters of the Dancing Sky
Llumina Press (2009)
Reviewed by Beverly Pechin for Reader Views (10/09)