on June 22, 2017 :
You know how sometimes when you're reading a book, there's that "secondary character" that you just love? They're as fascinating to you--or more fascinating--as any of the main characters, but you don't see nearly enough of them. You have a thousand questions about them, and you never get a single answer.
Well, this book is sheer wish fulfilment. It's an entire novel about one of those characters that doesn't get nearly enough time in Shawn Montaigne's series Melody and the Pier to Forever. It's the story of Yaeko's guardian, Elizabeth Finnegan.
***On that note, I want to mention that if you haven't read the first couple of books in the main saga of Melody and the Pier to Forever (at the very least, book 1), you will be super confused by the end of this book, like someone has dropped you down the rabbit hole without explanation. If you've read the others however, you won't have any questions, you'll simply have caught up to the present. ***
This is the story of Elizabeth's past. In Melody Books 1 and 2, you probably noticed that she's down-to-earth, pragmatic, and has an astonishing ability to roll with the unexpected changes in her life and the huge expansion of her universe. As it turns out, she wasn't born that way, and she went through hell to get to that point. In short, this is actually the story of how Elizabeth became Elizabeth.
The other reason I would say this book is about wish fulfilment is because in a literal way, it is--it is about the fulfilment of Elizabeth's own wish. But
more than that, it is about the fulfilment of her destiny.
Do you ever wake up in the morning knowing with every fibre of your being that you were meant for something better? Something specific. Something that is so much a part of you that in many ways it is you?
I wake up that way every day. And every day, I know that my destiny is impossibly out of reach. Not impossible like a job that's hard to get or a love that's hard to find. The kind of impossible that results from being in the wrong darn universe.
I loved reading this book because that was what Elizabeth went through too, every single day. She also woke up each day knowing she was meant for something better, something specific, but for her, gradually that something materialized into something--someone--in her own world. That someone was a beautiful young violinist named Yaeko Mitsaki, a celebrity from Japan. At first, what she feels is most akin to a fangirl obsession (I say that without disparagement, having once travelled quite a distance and faced many obstacles to meet my own hero), and a pressing need to meet her, but after a horrific accident kills Yaeko's family (as readers of Melody and the Pier to Forever know), the exact shape of that desire becomes clear--she realizes she is and has always been destined to be Yaeko's new mother.
Even though she has an indirect personal connection to Yaeko through her new friend Isao Akimoto, Elizabeth struggles each day to believe that she actually will meet Yaeko, and even though evidence is presented to her through Izumi's extraordinary prophecy, Elizabeth can hardly conceive of the possibility that she really will achieve this destiny. Being meant for something and being able to actually fulfil one's potential are two very different things. There are no certainties in life. And as it turns out, this destiny also literally is tied to a different universe. Thankfully, so is Yaeko.
If you've read Melody, you already know how things pan out. In any case, this is a book about faith and fortitude in the face of the unknown and the seemingly impossible. And as someone who can relate closely to Elizabeth's single-minded focus, I know how painful and difficult it can be to struggle with the clash between internal certainty that something is meant to be and external uncertainty that it ever possibly can be. So I am greatly inspired by Elizabeth's example, and as someone in my 30-somethings, I also found it refreshing and reassuring to read about someone in her late 30s whose life finally collided with destiny after long years of darkness.
Will I be as lucky as Elizabeth? I don't think so, but it still reassures me to know that she probably would have given the same answer in my shoes at one point of her life, maybe even at the same age I'm at. Regardless, perhaps the true lesson is that it is the will to destiny that forges one’s identity, not destiny itself.
Frankly there is already enough writing, especially in the fantasy genre, where we have a brave but uncertain hero with destiny thrust upon him. The entire world is certain of that hero's role, but he feels lost in it, and maybe doesn't want it. If he gets something wonderful from it, he questions whether he deserves it at all.
This story is the inverted version of that. Here, the universe is the world of uncertainty, and the hero knows absolutely she deserves the wonder and beauty she discovers in her life—long before it arrives. This is why she is able to roll with the changes so well. Her life doesn’t become more bizarre, even if appears so. In a way, quite the opposite—it becomes more natural, more her own, a truer fit for her authentic self.
Also, this should really be more than a footnote, but I want to add that it was great to read more about Isao Akimoto as well, who likewise gets short shrift in the main saga. Isao is a fascinating person in and of himself, and his friendship with Elizabeth is arguably the most interesting relationship in the story. Though they live in different countries, they have keys to each others' houses and are incredibly close and consistent in their friendship, melding their lives in as many ways as possible. As with the other relationships Shawn Montaigne writes about, I find myself saying, "Why can't I find this in my life?"
The bottom line is that if you've read Melody and the Pier to Forever, you can't miss this novel. Like the other "side stories" in this series, this one should be front and centre in your reading. When I struggle with my own faith (and I do quite a lot), thinking about Elizabeth sometimes helps me get through dark days. I think she will help you too.
(reviewed 53 days after purchase)