SWEAR­ING OFF STARS

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Debut Fiction - AMANDA ADAMS

Danielle M. Wong, She Writes Press (OC­TO­BER), Soft­cover $16.95 (261pp), 978-1-63152-284-0 No re­la­tion­ship is easy to main­tain, but this story is a heart­felt ex­plo­ration of the ways in which re­la­tion­ships are ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. Danielle M. Wong’s Swear­ing off Stars de­tails the life of Lia Cole, an Amer­i­can study­ing abroad in 1920s Ox­ford. Ex­posed to a new world of po­lit­i­cal un­rest and chang­ing so­cial norms, she is soon in­tro­duced to the women’s rights move­ment by Scar­lett, an as­pir­ing ac­tress whose beauty and wit at­tracts Lia in­stantly.

The two en­gage in a pas­sion­ate, se­cret re­la­tion­ship, though the ro­mance is short-lived. The po­lit­i­cal land­scape shifts, and the move­ment changes. Years pass, and the two em­bark on vastly dif­fer­ent paths. Lia re­mains cog­nizant of Scar­lett’s life only through pub­lic ad­ver­tise­ments for her new films. The pos­si­bil­ity of a ro­man­tic rekin­dling is pre­sented un­ex­pect­edly with the dis­cov­ery of a cryp­tic let­ter hid­den years be­fore.

Wong’s style is im­agery-laden and cap­ti­vat­ing, with float­ing, seam­less prose. Com­pelling char­ac­ters drive the story for­ward, each contributing in some way to the timely ad­vance­ment of the plot. Lia and Scar­lett are in­her­ently re­lat­able, deal­ing with the pit­falls of lost love and the minu­tiae of ev­ery­day life in the best ways that they can, un­til fate brings them back to­gether.

Though Lia and Scar­lett are the book’s pri­mary fo­cus, sec­ondary char­ac­ters re­ceive the same dy­namic treat­ment, help­ing to es­tab­lish the tur­bu­lent time in which the cou­ple lived. The text ex­plores the in­tense strug­gle that Lia’s par­ents face while try­ing to ac­cept and pro­tect their daugh­ter from pub­lic scru­tiny; it is both a rage-in­duc­ing and tragic prob­lem. Char­ac­ters grap­ple with sex­u­al­ity in a time when such things were not dis­cussed.

The novel’s nu­anced look at dif­fer­ent types of love is a great credit to it—from the close bonds of friend­ship to the pas­sion of ro­mance, and fi­nally the of­ten har­row­ing fa­mil­ial re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that bring peo­ple to­gether. No re­la­tion­ship is easy to main­tain, but this story is a heart­felt ex­plo­ration of the ways in which re­la­tion­ships are ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary.

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