All Penny has ever wanted to do is dance—and when that chance is taken from her, it pushes her to the brink of despair, from which she might never return. When she wakes up after a traumatic fall, bruised and battered but miraculously alive, Penny must confront the memories that have haunted her for years, using her love of movement to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.
Kathryn Craft’s lyrical debut novel is a masterful portrayal of a young woman trying to come to terms with her body and the artistic world that has repeatedly rejected her. The Art of Falling expresses the beauty of movement, the stasis of despair, and the unlimited possibilities that come with a new beginning.” ~Goodreads
Releases on January 28th, 2014.
I was given an advance reader’s copy of this debut novel just recently and was impressed how the story pulled me in with the first page and wouldn’t let go until the last. It’s not necessarily a mystery but that was what first kept me riveted. Did Penny try to take her life with the 14 story fall, was she pushed, did she faint?
As the story progressed, I was more mesmerized by the life of a dancer. One whose life and career is all about movement, emotion, physicality, image and art. The writing was as beautiful and fluid as a dancer’s movement. I could feel Penny’s love and obsession for dance, like a lifeline.
“Only motion can soothe me; only sweat can wash away me fear.”
“I become the movement. I fling my boundaries to the back of the house; I will be bigger than ever before. I’m a confluence of muscle and sinew and bone made beautiful through my command of the oldest language. I long to move others through my dancing because then I, too, am moved.”
This story wasn’t pretty or sweet. As any athlete, especially a dancer, much of the story revolves around body image. Penny is considered “larger” for a dancer and really struggles with her weight and what she eats. Some would find this obsession disturbing, but I could appreciate the brutal honesty especially knowing that the author has had an extensive background as a dance teacher, choreographer and degrees in health and physical education. I am sure this story is commonplace in a dancer’s world.
What struck me also about this debut novel was the relationship Penny has with her obese mother. Obviously their views on health and nutrition were vast opposites and that didn’t help the complex mother-daughter relationship. It was touching to see how much her mother sacrificed for her dancing (like all parents do) with driving to classes, the cost and encouragement and Penny not realizing it until after her accident. Not just the time and money sacrificed but Penny’s mother gave her unwavering support and was her biggest fan. Having both my daughters in dance classes (not at all like this) I saw many parallels to what some of the young dancers go through as well as the “stage moms”.
Penny also struggled with real friendships. Someone who throws themselves into such a rigorous dance schedule as a child probably doesn’t have much time for anything else, let alone build friendships. It was nice to see her finally sustain real friendships with Angela and Mr. Kandelbaum after her accident. Mirroring Penny’s recovery and Angela’s fight to live (she had CF) was powerful on paper. Was it irony that Mr. Kandelbaum (Marty) was a baker and Angela had Penny’s dream stick figure(from CF)? They were Penny’s worst nightmare but in reality they were also the ones who saved her from herself.
As much as I squeal like a teenager when a favorite author releases a new novel, I am that excited to find new authors and talent. Kathryn Craft is definitely someone to watch and add to your reading list. The topics in this book would create a great discussion in a book club.
*Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for this advance reader’s copy. I was not required to review this book nor was I compensated.