Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review of "The Girl in the Glass" by Susan Meissner

Rating: 4 Stars
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Summary from Waterbrook Multnomah: Renaissance is a word with hope infused in every letter.

Since she was a child, Meg has dreamed of taking a promised trip to Florence, Italy, and being able to finally step into the place captured in a picture at her grandmother’s house. But after her grandmother passes away and it falls to her less-than-reliable father to take her instead, Meg’s long-anticipated travel plans seem permanently on hold.
When her dad finally tells Meg to book the trip, she prays that the experience will heal the fissures left on her life by her parents’ divorce. But when Meg arrives in Florence, her father is nowhere to be found, leaving aspiring memoir-writer Sophia Borelli to introduce Meg to the rich beauty of the ancient city. Sofia claims to be one of the last surviving members of the Medici family and that a long-ago Medici princess, Nora Orsini, communicates with her from within the great masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.
When Sophia, Meg, and Nora’s stories intersect, their lives will be indelibly changed as they each answer the question: What if renaissance isn’t just a word? What if that’s what happens when you dare to believe that what is isn’t what has to be?

Review: Since reading The Shape of Mercy a few years ago, I have been intrigued by Susan Meissner's ability to shape multiple stories into one novel. She mixes historical and contemporary settings in The Girl in the Glass, with the added bonus of a European setting.  For me, one of the highlights of the novel is the city of Florence.  Meissner describes the city with a clarity and detail that makes Florence come to life in the pages.  I actually took a few breaks while I was reading the book on my Kindle to search for some of the art, architecture, and places that Meissner mentions.  At the beginning of the novel, Meg conveys her belief in the strength of travel memoirs to take people to a location they will never travel to themselves.  The Girl in the Glass feels like a travel memoir to me, allowing me to experience an area I would like to visit in the future.

The Girl in the Glass is a novel about self-discovery, reflection, dreams, and realities. I can relate to the dreamer in Meg, the part of her who has felt drawn to a particular place for years, but has never taken the risk to live her dream.  Meissner brings Meg's story to life, with insight into her background, her fears, and her desires.  Sofia's character offers a unique perspective of Florence for both Meg and readers.  The glimpses into Sofia's life and the life of sixteenth-century Nora, provide interesting and impactful parallels to Meg's life.  The concepts of taking risks, chasing dreams, and choosing your perspective on life are very relevant not only to the characters in the novel, but today's readers as well.  

Meissner offers interesting tidbits of Nora's life at the end of every chapter and through Sofia's reflections.  
Although I enjoyed Nora's story and its connection to the contemporary plot, I was left wanting to know more of her story and what happened in her marriage.  Meg's story also ends on the brink of change, and I have to remind myself that The Girl in the Glass does not solely revolve around a love story, like so many other novels.  It revolves around one's perspective and leaves us with the reminder that books and life are not just black and white, they are given depth with shades of gray. 

I received a complimentary electronic copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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