FREEFALL A Divine Comedy
Author: Lily Iona MacKenzie
Publisher: Pen-L Publishing
Genre: Literature & Fiction > Humorous > Romantic Comedy > Women’s Fiction > Contemporary
My Rating: 5 STARS
Author’s Bio (From Publisher’s Website): Lily Iona MacKenzie sprouted on the
Canadian prairies under cumulous clouds that bloomed everywhere in Alberta’s big sky. They were her first creative writing instructors, scudding across the heavenly blue, constantly changing shape: one minute an elephant, bruised and brooding. The next morphing into a rabbit or a castle. As an adult, Lily continues to seek instruction about fiction from clouds. Just as they provide the earth with much-needed water, she believes that stories have a similar function, preparing the mind to receive new ideas. Magical realism pulses at the heart of her narratives, her work celebrating the imagination.
A high school dropout and a mother at 17, over the years, Lily has supported herself as a stock girl in the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a long distance operator for the former Alberta Government Telephones, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored her into the States where she now lives). She also was a cocktail waitress at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, briefly broke into the male-dominated world of the docks as a longshoreman (and almost got her legs broken), founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County, and eventually earned two Master’s degrees (one in English with an emphasis on Creative writing and one in the Humanities).
She has published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and a memoir in over 155 American and Canadian venues. She also teaches writing at the University of San Francisco, paints, and does collage.
Book Description (From Publisher’s Page): During a four-day reunion in Whistler, B.C., Tillie Bloom, a wacky installation artist, reconnects with three women she had hung out with in the late ’50s and early ’60s. While in Whistler, secrets surface and a near death experience occurs during a hike, both of which bind the women at a deeper level.
Their new intimacy prompts them to celebrate the millennium as well as their approaching sixtieth birthdays in Italy. So a few weeks later, Tillie travels to Venice to have an extended reunion with her friends. While the women assume they’re in Venice to vacation and deepen their relationships, Tillie has a hidden agenda: she intends to crash the Venice Biennale, hoping to find a larger audience for her art. Cupid’s arrows complicate her goals when she and an Italian priest fall for each other.
The reflective quality of Venice’s canals also create unexpected changes in the women, causing them to turn inward. They all end up with a fresh take on themselves and their lives. Tillie, in particular, experiences a deeper understanding of herself. But will it take her on a path she’s ready to travel, and will Venice finally give her the recognition she seeks as an artist?
Other Books by Author Lily Iona MacKenzie:
Curva Peligrosa (09.01.2017): When Curva Peligrosa arrives in Weed, Alberta, after a twenty-year trek on the Old North Trail from southern Mexico, she stops its residents in their tracks. With a parrot on each shoulder, a glittering gold tooth, and a wicked trigger finger, she is unlike anything they have ever seen before. Curva is ready to settle down, but are the inhabitants of Weed ready for her? Possessed of an insatiable appetite for life and love, Curva’s infectious energy galvanizes the townspeople, turning their staid world upside down with her exotic elixirs and unbridled ways. Toss in an unscrupulous americano developer and a one-eyed Blackfoot chief, stir them all together in the tumult of a tempestuous tornado, and the town of Weed will never be the same again. A lyrical account of one woman’s journey and the unexpected effects it has on the people around her, Curva Peligrosa pulses with the magic at the heart and soul of life.
Fling! (06.23.2015): A wildly comic romp on mothers, daughters, art, travel and death, the book should appeal to a broad range of readers. While the main characters are middle-aged and older, their zest for life would draw readers of all ages, male or female, attracting the youthful adventurer in most people. Though women may identify more readily with Feather and Bubbles’ daughter and mother struggles, the heart of the book is how they approach their aging selves and are open to new experiences. Since art and imagination are key to this narrative, artists of all ages would find something to enjoy. And because the book crosses many borders (Scotland, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico), it also can’t be limited to a specific age group, social class, gender, or region.
ALL THIS (10.20.2011):Indicative of the title, the poems in All This range from the conventional lyric/narrative that captures an intense moment of emotion, an epiphany glimpsed briefly out of the corner of the eye, to the more experimental. Some of the poems use intertextuality, language from other works, to explore meaning, perception, and layers of experience. Others play with language, letting it lead into unexpected places, exploring new terrain. In a few, placement on the page conveys the feel of musical notation and phrasing, the page a theatre where the interaction of language makes meaning rather than recreates a remembered event. At times, words in a poem are treated as paint and the sheet of paper as an expressionistic canvas.
The Publisher has provided a thorough story description of FREEFALL to intrigue the reader to want to read the novel. If I were to add any further events that take place in MacKenzie’s Devine Comedy, I would be doing the reader an injustice by removing the intrigue and anticipation of the story, spoiling the premise of this must-read novel. FREEFALL is written in First Person Point of View which remains consistent throughout the book and does an exceptional job of providing a clear backstory for each of MacKenzie’s main characters. Whether writing about the grizzly bear, the pigeon, the snake, the termites, or the dynamic relationships of the four women who have been friends for life, MacKenzie’s unique descriptive narration entrances the reader, keeping the readers riveted throughout her story, whether writing the comedic or ruminating on aging and mortality.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote, “Mary McCarthy, Anne Rivers Siddons, and a host of others have portrayed the power and value of female friendships, but no one has done it with more grace, charm, talent, and power than Rebecca Wells does in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” However, this was before Lily Iona MacKenzie introduces us to the power and value of four-lifetime female friendships in FREEFALL: A Divine Comedy.
FREEFALL: A Divine Comedy is reminiscent of Dante’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy. MacKenzie cleverly shows the similarity of Dante and the four-lifetime friends on a spiritual life journey, Dante’s journey from hell to paradise and the women’s journey through their lives. MacKenzie also cleverly inserts symbolic likenesses. Dante’s path through the forest is blocked by a leopard, lion and a she-wolf. A grizzly bear blocks the four-lifetime friends’ way through the forest, and they encounter multiple additional animals and creatures on their journey. Both Dante’s journey, as well as the four women’s journey allegorically, represent the soul’s journey to their ending, whether that be God, heaven or the aging process which will eventually end in death. Multiple themes are present in both Dante’s The Divine Comedy and MacKenzies’s FREEFALL: A Divine Comedy. Aside from the symbology of the animals, there are also many allegorical and philosophical likenesses, e.g., the spiritual journeys of self-discovery, adventure, art, religion, human nature, darkness, and mortality. MacKenzie renders the semblance of Dante’s poem and her novel while weaving humor throughout her novel.
If you have not read Dante’s The Divine Comedy, you won’t pick up on the allegorical and symbolic likenesses. However, you may find yourself in your philosophical place as you journey with the four-lifetime friends as they share their experiences while traversing their spiritual journey which is turning sixty, and their desires of accomplishment before they enter the darkness.