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Monday, September 24, 2012

How I Came to Sparkle Again by Kaya McLaren

How I Came to Sparkle Again by Kaya McLaren
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (337 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Set in a Colorado ski town, Kaya McLaren's How I Came To Sparkle Again is a remarkable breakout novel that chronicles three people and their journey from loss to love; heartbreak to hope

Jill Anthony spent her young adulthood in the ski town of Sparkle, Colorado. But more than a decade has passed since she left when, only weeks after a very late miscarriage, she finds her husband in bed with another woman, she flees Austin, Texas for the town she knows: Sparkle.

Lisa Carlucci wakes up one morning after another night of meaningless sex, looks in the mirror and realizes that she no longer wants to treat her body like a Holiday Inn. She’s going to hold out for love. The only problem is, love might come in the form of her ski bum best friend, who lives next door with his ski bum friends in a trailer known as “the Kennel.”

Cassie Jones, at age ten, has lost her mother to cancer and no longer believes in anything anymore. She knows her father is desperately worried about her, and she constantly looks for messages from her deceased mother through the heart-shaped rocks they once collected in the streams and hills of Sparkle.

Three people at the crossroads of heartbreak and healing. Three lives that will be changed one winter in Sparkle. One tender, funny, tear-jerking novel you won’t soon forget.

“Keep Living.” “Don’t worry about the future, it will come.” “Look at NOW, see opportunities….” This kind of advice and so much more is offered to Jill, Lisa, and Cassie as each of them struggles to find her way back to positive, productive living from the bleakest time in each of their lives.

Jill, a successful nurse with a beautiful home, is devastated by the loss of her unfaithful husband and their baby. She runs, feeling like a discarded woman and only in her thirties. Even her parents have written her off as not being good enough to be in the Celestial Kingdom with them. But in Sparkle, Colorado, Uncle Howard accepts her, warts and all, just like he did years ago when she was a skinny kid. Everyone should have an “Uncle Howard”! He is a darling.

Jill needs a season to heal and ends up living in “The Kennel” with three men—womanizers, ski bums, and loyal friends to her at this fragile time in her life. Tom, Eric, and Hans furnish outrageous humor and a philosophy that staggers the imagination. Tom explains the Wild Kingdom with alpha and beta male philosophy to Jill. It is mind boggling. These three men depict a unique sub-cultural that functions to the rhythm of a different drum.

Lisa, Jill’s friend, welcomes Jill back to Sparkle with open arms. A ski instructor and accepting friend of Tom, Eric, and Hans, Lisa turns over a new leaf and starts a new chapter in her life. She struggles to regain her self-esteem and to build a life with integrity and love as a must in any relationship she has from here on. She becomes a mystery to those who have seen her promiscuous ways in the past. She is a super friend and what she does to get even with Jill’s faithless husband that files for divorce is unparalleled—wicked.

Little Cassie grieves for her dead mother who had also been her ski mentor, close companion and confidante. Mike, her father, does all he knows to do to help her, but knows he falls short and Cassie is such a problem and lives in a world so to herself that no one wants to stay with her while Mike works, until Jill comes along.

Overwhelmed with his own grief, Mike struggles to do his job where life and death seem to just happen for no reason. He hates for people to try to rationalize why some live and some die.

The relationship that grows between Jill and Cassie—so fragile in the beginning has some breath-holding moments that tug on the heart strings. The humanness and stages of healing they help each other through make poignant reading.

Kaya McLaren writes descriptions that plop the reader right down into the pristine snow on the silent ski slopes and into the disgusting “Kennel” where urine is spattered on the toilet tissue, marijuana perfumes the air, and a mirror hangs on the ceiling over Jill’s bed. Ms. McLaren offers a vicarious experience with characters that range from successful professionals to the “barely-get-by” misfits and manages to let the reader see something especially good in each of the.

Ms. McLaren has an amazing talent for writing humor that fits perfectly with a character to make each one endearing in some way yet flawed in other ways. She engages the reader’s senses with revealing descriptions and metaphors and keeps one turning pages to see what serious or humorous thing will happen next. She weaves a multitude of life’s obstacles into the story as Jill, Lisa, and Cassie forge a path back to happiness with the help of a delightful array of secondary characters.

How I Came to Sparkle Again, with its more than one meaning, is a sparkling, funny, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking tale with remarkable characters. It touches the heart on many levels—a keeper.