There are several writers in the world who I am familiar with their name, and given particular reviews, feel instinctively that I would like, perhaps even love, only for one reason or another I still have not gotten around to reading them. Graham Joyce was always one such writer. Respected by other authors whose work I admire and reviewed highly by more sophisticated readership, he remained unread for reasons only the gods can perceive. That is, until now: Some Kind of Fairy Tale (2012) has been read, and it’s easy to say, my instincts regarding Joyce have been utterly and thoroughly vetted.
After twenty years away and her family and friends thinking her dead, Tara Martin walks back into the family home one Christmas day. Her mother fainting to the floor, everyone, including Tara’s brother Pete, are in shock. Not looking a day older than when they last saw her, Tara’s appearance matches her story—that she was kidnapped by fairies just six months ago, but overall just doesn’t add up to the real world of loss, heartache, and pain the past two decades have brought to those closest to her. And that’s only the first few chapters…
Some Kind of Fairy Tale is one of those novels whose summary does it no justice. It’s a select group of readers who will be immediately turned on by the premise described above, yet certainly the novel will appeal to a much wider audience given Joyce’s talents with prose, story, and character. Add to this the reader is always treated with a strong measure of intelligence and maturity (a necessary given the novel’s usage of the fantastic) and you have the makings of a very strong novel. Joyce fully cognizant of the literal centuries of fairy stories and tales coming prior to his novel, he clearly positions the story as a 21st century update. A real challenge given the amount of science which has infiltrated Western culture, in many ways destroying the possibility of fairy tales, Joyce nevertheless spins this aspect positively, playing off the juxtaposition of Tara’s psychiatrist’s findings with her seemingly supernatural story. Oscillating between true/not true in suspenseful fashion, a solid portion of the novel’s momentum is maintained by the uncertain reality of the story—a real fairy tale, that.
As one hopes given the story type, the characters are front and center. Realistically presented with real emotions, actions, and reactions, each comes from the tapestry of life—from Pete’s emotionally intelligent wife Genevieve to Tara’s former boyfriend now struggling musician Richey, Pete’s teenage children to Tara’s slightly eccentric psychiatrist, all work within and inform Tara’s amazing story and truly have the reader sympathetic to all perspectives.
In the end, Some Kind of Fairy Tale is one of those character driven dramas so difficult to put down for the manner in which the plot’s premise is so finely and delicately balanced across multiple, often opposing viewpoints. Through the eyes of rich, full-blooded people, we get perspectives into Tara’s “fairy tale”, the tension as to its reality played, unpacked one intriguing detail at a time. Master story from a master storyteller. Great stuff.