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Guest Review: Dahti Blanchard's Dream of the Circle of Women

Dream of the Circle of Women by Dahti Blanchard
Spilled Candy Books, 2004, ISBN 1-892718-49-9

Kat, a Seattle writer/artist, arrives in a small New England town to see the house she's just inherited from Tess, the birth mother she never met. As Kat explores the old house, meets her neighbors, and wakes from a series of vivid dreams, she learns about her mother -- and finds more and more questions. Why did Tess refuse to meet her daughter, but collect every book she wrote? Where are the paintings that left shadows on the walls? Where, for that matter, are Tess' clothes? How does Kat know to call the cat by her proper name? And why does an arthritic neighbor visit her, asking for healing?

This is a mystery novel that plays fair with the reader, weaving clues into the narrative and maintaining suspense to the end. It's also the story of a woman experiencing undeniable, startling shifts in what she knows about herself and the world. It's about magic and family history. And finally, it's several kinds of a love story. Kat's lesbian, Wiccan daughter and her partner are visitors; the woman next door quickly becomes a close friend; and the town's widower librarian offers more than friendship. This is not, however, one of those stories where the woman is autonomous and growing until she falls in love, and the rest of the book is about the love interest. Here the circle of women remains at the heart of the story.

Blanchard spins a good story and weaves the many threads together successfully. The narrative voice is casual, conversational, and contemporary -- a little jarring in places, where the situation is a dramatic flashback to another century or a moment of perceived beauty or transformation.

It's easy to like Kat and the people she gets to know, and to regret the loss of Tess, who occupies the story like a presence seen only from the corner of the eye.

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  • Book Cover, Dream of the Circle of Women
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