The title of Kaya McLarens third novel is reminiscent of Terry McMillans How Stella Got Her Groove Back and the topic is similar, too.
How I Came to Sparkle Again is also a double entendre. The main character is trying to get back to a familiar physical place as well as return to a positive emotional and personal space.
The first of the three main characters is Jill Anthony, whose life reads like a country-western song. Having just suffered a grievous, life-changing loss, she finds herself driving a recently purchased used car to Sparkle, a fictional Colorado Rocky Mountain ski town where Jill grew up with her Uncle Howard, the local skiing and reading guru. Sparkle offers Jill a safe and comfortable place to heal her wounds.
Lisa Carlucci is Jills best friend who has been trying to get Jill to return to Sparkle from Texas, where shes lived for the last 10 years. Jill and Lisa are expert skiers, and Texas has a shortage of snow and mountain runs. Lisa is at a crossroads in her personal life as well and could use some support from her friend. Lisa is tired of the string of men who have been running through her life in a series of meaningless encounters. She is finally ready for that missing life force, love, to be an important presence in her life.
The final main character is Cassie Jones, a precocious 10-year-old who has lost her mother, Kate, to breast cancer. Cassie is having a hard time dealing with her anger and loss and cant accept how unfair life is.
Cassie and her father, Mike, are trying to figure out where their lives are going from here. Mike is a EMT/firefighter who works long shifts and needs a reliable sitter to watch Cassie. Mikes work is tough, and he is finding it difficult to help families who lose loved ones when he is still dealing with his own loss.
This novel deals with love and loss and the many different ways people cope, move on and then hopefully heal. It is about characters trying to find their way to a new norm with the help of some unlikely friends. Jill gets unexpected support from her roommates in her new digs, known locally as The Kennel.
She rents a room in a trailer next door to Lisa. Her three male roommates work on the mountain and each one has a dog named after a beer. Cleanliness is not a strong point of the roomies, a situation that the nurse in Jill finds hard to tolerate. But one of her roommates helps her get a job on the mountain in the infirmary.
Then she begins working for Mike after Cassies old babysitter quits. Thus, this disparate group discovers ways to help each other heal.
McLaren has created some great secondary characters. Her setting feels familiar with its scenic mountains, tourists, ski bums and crazy winter activities (read Snowdown) that help the locals survive the rigors of winter.
McLaren provides an insiders perspective into the workings of a small town that relies on a tourist industry, something to which many in Durango can relate.
This story is entertaining and moving, and the characters and their life situations range from comedic to mundane to outright tragic.
How I Came To Sparkle Again is an engrossing novel that is heartfelt, entertaining and a fun read.
Freelance reviewer Leslie Doran may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.