After a lengthy analysis, Maureen K. Speller at Paper Knife determines that Lisa Goldstein’s Mythopoeic Award Winner The Uncertain Places is a “deeply absorbing novel.”
The story invariably begins with ‘once upon a time’ and ends ‘and they all lived happily ever after’. The protagonist unthinkingly makes a bad bargain and inadvertently agrees to a sacrifice he or she later realises is unacceptable. Usually, the resourceful hero or heroine manages to trick the fairy into undoing the bargain and restoring the status quo, while conveniently retaining the benefits of the bargain. But what if the fairy is smarter than the protagonist after all, and, in undoing the bad bargain, offers one that was far worse in the long run but without any immediate bad effects? And what if the effects of that bargain persist into the present day? What happens then? These questions sit at the heart of Lisa Goldstein’s The Uncertain Places, which intertwines the secret history of a lost fairy story with a period of immense social upheaval in California.
It’s an interesting question that Goldstein poses, and there is no easy answer to be found. What constitutes a ‘happy ever after’ for one person may bring misery to another. Perhaps the stories of one continent cannot survive transplantation to another without being somehow changed in the process. No matter how carefully hidden away they might be, sooner or later, as the territory is charted, they’re brought into the light of day. It’s what happens then that Goldstein has so intriguingly explored in this deeply absorbing novel.
Read Speller’s entire review at Paper Knife.
For more information on The Uncertain Places, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Ann Monn.