Michael “Blue” Whitley, a struggling New York restaurant owner, needs to settle his late grandmother’s estate in Nova Scotia. He enlists his friends Gabe and Elisa—and Elisa’s husband, Jason—to spend a week there with him while he sells his grandmother’s house. As soon as they arrive in Starling Cove, where Blue lived with his mother in an artists’ commune until he was five years old, he feels like he’s come home, despite lacking any considerable memories of the place.
The woods especially hold an overwhelming attraction for Blue, who finds himself staring into the trees for hours on end during his first night in Starling Cove—and, eerily, feels the woods staring back at him. Later, while walking through his grandmother’s house, he discovers that he and another little girl once disappeared into the Starling Cove woods, only to return two weeks later, stark naked and…different, somehow. Suddenly, memories begin to surface…memories of light, memories of darkness, memories of being underground…and he still feels eyes on him from the woods.
Plus, some of the Starling Cove residents seem to know something about Blue that he doesn’t know about himself…
This is a tough review to write because it’s hard to put how I felt about The Glittering World into words. It’s one of those books whose cover matches the story perfectly: Levy’s masterful writing evokes dreamy scenes of teal and aquamarine, with dashes of deep violet and royal blue, and speckled with brilliant pinks and yellows. In short, it’s stunning.
The Glittering World is an interesting take on the multiple-narrators style, with each of the four main characters—Blue, Jason, Elisa, and Gabe—narrating in turn. Unlike most stories with multiple narrators, in which the narration often passes back and forth between characters, The Glittering World is divided into four sections with each section narrated by a different character. At first, I didn’t love this arrangement (I felt Blue’s section, the first, ended too soon and I wanted more from him), but as the story progressed it made more sense to tell the story this way. I particularly liked Blue’s and Gabe’s sections; the fact that they are the first and the last probably have something to do with that, but I also just liked their voices and I liked them as characters.
This is a story that resists labels: it’s not horror, despite some of the terrifying things that happen; it certainly has elements of fantasy, but, set in the “real world” as it is, it’s not high fantasy, nor is it urban fantasy; it’s almost like a fairy tale, but quite dark, and swirled with a little bit of crime fiction here and a little bit of mystery there. There is most definitely a love story element, though perhaps not so much eros, romantic love, as agape—divine love, “the love of God for man and of man for God”—and its power to heal. It’s always refreshing to read a book that focuses on love other than romantic love.
The Glittering World, above all, is seductive: by the time you’ve realized that it’s wrapped its many arms around you, it’ll be too late—but you won’t want it to release you.by