Sunday, June 21, 2009 By: Suzanne

Audio: The Onion Girl by Charles De Lint

If you have been reading me since the beginning then you know what a fan I am of Charles de Lint. He is probably my favorite author of all time. The first book I ever read by him was Someplace To Be Flying. I was so enamored with the book that I immediately began telling everyone I knew I about it. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same as I do about his books, at least in my small circle of family and friends. It was shortly after this that I started my blog. I wanted to share my favorite books with people that would appreciate them. I wanted others to love Charles de Lint's writing as much as I do.

I have never been the kind of fan that would write to an author or musician or actor. I just never felt that strongly about any of them I guess. Before I would have said I didn't want to break that boundary and be disappointed, but I think now I simply had not had that extreme fan feeling that causes this NEED to write to someone famous. Charles de Lint was my first and remains to this day the only one I've written. I can't explain it very well except that the two times I've written him, it's been about music, not books. His books have a lot of musical references and often one or more characters who are musicians. In some books, the main character is a musician and the music is central to the story. In others, the musicians are friends of the main character, who is usually an artist-type too. I noticed that his musical references were ones that I love too: Dar Williams, Steve Earle, Tori Amos, Ani DeFranco, and many more. I wrote and told him that I had just discovered why I connected so well to his books: the music. He wrote me back THE NEXT DAY and said:

Sounds like you're on the same wavelength as me, Tonya. Though I wonder what you'll think of the music that got me through my next Tor novel--lots of surf guitar and rockabilly! :) But I do love a good story song. cheers Charles

I can only assume he means Mystery of Grace, which is the only novel that came out after this exchange but I still haven't read it yet. Bad, Tonya! Ok, so maybe I'm a little silly and this is not such a big deal, but I was impressed. All this is a lead up to the title of the book I just finished, The Onion Girl. The title comes from a song by Holly Cole. I'm going to share the lyrics with you because it not only describes the heroine of de Lint's book, but most of us too.

I'm a bit unstable, she said with a Cheshire grin
So many cracks in my sidewalk, boy
Don't you fall in.

Feels like the things that I've wanted
The most in this life I can't have
So you see I've been damning the world before it damns me

She said I'm naked and shameless
And I'm peeling back the layers
Like an onion girl
Don't try to save me Just stay away 'Cause I might make you cry
Like an onion girl
Like an onion girl

Second grade playground I still haven't the nerve
Fear is under my skin like St. Anthony's fire
And I can't stand the burn
So let's break a little bread, have a little laugh
I haven't laughed for a while cause it's a long road back, yes
From the womb tonight

I'm naked, shameless And peeling back the layers
Like an onion girl
Don't try to save me Just stay away 'Cause I might make you cry, yes
Like an onion girl
Like an onion girl

Ok, on to the book. I'm sure you've figured out that it may not matter if I've even read the book, if it's by Charles de Lint, I'm probably going to like it. His story lines follow my interests: music, spirituality and ancient religions, and self-growth and of course, lots and lots of fairies, goblins, and other equally fun characters. The Onion Girl is Jilly's story. Jilly is a character that shows up in a lot of his books. I was excited when I saw there was a book telling her story. In several other books there is reference to some traumatic past that Jilly isn't willing to share and I always wondered that was. Maybe I missed it somehow, but it seems that de Lint forgot this little fact because all of her friends in the book acted like she had always been open about her past. In the books I remember, Jilly alludes to it, but always seems to not want to talk about it and no one else seemed to know what happened. Of course, I haven't read nearly all of his books and there are probably ten more that show her opening up.

The book begins as Jilly has had a terrible accident. A hit and run driver has left her in a coma and possibly paralyzed. The upside is that now Jilly appears able to cross into the dreamlands that she has always wanted to visit and has never been able to before. She can only do it in her dreams but it becomes clear that her experiences are real. Joe, a friend that is also one of the Animal People (his parents were a crow and a dog) tells her to not spend so much time there. She will only be able to heal when she deals with an older inside hurt that never healed. The story follows Jilly in the present day, mainly, and her sister in the past as they make their way toward each other again after 30 years apart. And they are both very different than either remembers...

If you like "urban fantasy" then you will love this book. Modern day collides with the fairy-lands and native spirituality in The Onion Girl.

"I'm not as trusting as people think I am. Sure, I see the best in people, but that doesn't mean it's really there."
- Jilly


Michael said...

Interesting about the Holly Cole song, I've been listening to her for a while, starting back when it was still the Holly Cole Trio.