I just read the novel, Skylark written by my friend Carol Carnes and I am delighted and amazed at its depth and power. Creating a first novel worth reading is quite a feat. It is especially difficult for someone who preaches for a living. I was surprised at how good it was, although I’ve known Carol is brilliant ever since I first met her about thirty years ago.
She wrote the original book, Skylark, in a few long sittings back in 1997 and then she put it away. Then, more than ten years later, she edited it for publication. This is a very different book from her best-selling metaphysical book, The Way In, or her daily Science of Mind blog – firstname.lastname@example.org – that many of you subscribe to.
Skylark is fiction that takes place over a period of many years, jumping back and forth, from the Fifties to 1998. It traces the story of a very fascinating heroine, Harriet, who is an artist with a witty but sharp tongue. There are a lot of interior dialogs and many of them are laugh-out-loud funny.
The novel is not autobiographical but Harriet has a lot of Carol in her because she simultaneously makes you laugh and think. There is a whole cast of supporting characters, including Libby, her dead friend who was Queen of the Rose Parade, and Buddy, Libby’s black musician husband.
Like many first novels, it is a bit jumpy in time and setting. That makes it a little difficult to follow in places, but it is well worth reading. Not only do you get a fascinating look at growing up in the Fifties – just before Civil Rights hit the news, but you get a philosophical question and answer interior dialog that will delight anyone interested in New Thought.
Believe me, this book is not one of those simplistic New Thought semi-novels like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Shack, or The Alchemist. This is a grown up, fascinating novel that would delight any intelligent reader. There’s a lot coincidence, reminiscent of Dickens, in the plot. That might turn off some critics but in New Thought, we know coincidence is often how the Law of Attraction works so it didn’t disturb me. I don’t think it will bother any of you either.
I loved Harriet and all the supporting characters. It really is a delightful read if you like fiction. It is a serious book and the subject matter includes child sexual abuse, racial tensions, recovering adopted children, and women’s issues in the days before Betty, Friedian, Gloria Steinem or bra burning.
The book really is a “coming into ourself ” tale for the main character and many of us will identify with the heroine. Harriet has a compelling issue with being “seen”, and accepting success. I was right there with her on that one, as many other readers will also will be.
The glue of the story is the author’s love of jazz. Carol clearly loves her music and she knows every lyric and artist of that era. The pages are filled with references to The Lighthouse, Miles Davis, Billy Holiday and others. Her story is infused with jazz. Her writing style is like a jazz composition. Harriet even has a pet bird is named Coltrane.
It’s always a little scary to read a novel written by a friend. What if you don’t like it? What will you say? I truly liked the book and want to recommend it to you whether you can remember that era or not. It is a window on a time that people thought was peaceful and quiet. Actually, big, big change was right around the corner. Carol has it nailed.
Part of the reason I liked the book so much is that it brought back memories. I can remember when we listened to “race music” on the radio. I’d forgotten all about Hunter Hancock and his radio show but I listened to him in the Fifties. I had also forgotten names of artists like Big J. McNeely and some others who blasted their way into fame. We didn’t all listen to Frank Sinatra or Pat Boone.
I also loved reading about the 1950’s Pasadena days of old money and debutantes. I’m older than Carol but many of our memories coincide. There were several references to trendy clothing styles. When the girls in the book were wearing spaghetti strap dresses, I was the manager of Taffy’s Dress Shop at the Coconut Grove’s Ambassador Hotel. The spaghetti strap was Taffy’s signature style.
Carol also does a fine job with the New York City art scene at a much later time. Actually, her characters, issues and settings are all very authentic. It is a joy to read about a time that you lived in and find the writer knows what it was truly like. I hate reading about those days when the writer was born yesterday. Why shouldn’t they take a leaf from Carol’s book and write about yesterday?
Skylark is a great read, written by one of our finest ministers. If you read fiction, you’ll enjoy the book immensely. If you are a New Thought person, you will enjoy the philosophical discussions Harriet has with herself and her friends. If you are looking for another happy ending you may be surprised.
You can buy it from lulu.com or her website www.carolcarnes.com. $18.95.
Have I read any good books lately?