A Sense of Space
In the author’s notes at the rear of Kathryn Craft’s poignant and elegantly written, The Art of Falling, Ms. Craft explains that one of the reasons it might have taken her eight years to write her novel is that “Penelope and I were sharing our journey of healing.”
And indeed, it is a journey that we can all now share.
Space plays a vital role in this superb book, with its subtle echoes of the movie, Black Swan. Fourteen stories of space separates the main character, Penelope Sparrow, from the street below her as she falls; space is what fills the dance halls where she takes flight before and after her fall; and, space between people is what is diminished as the love and friendship grows between Penelope and the young woman whose illness teaches Penelope about unconditional love and acceptance.
A Sense of Growth
Through caring about–and for–a sickly Angela, Penelope grows into a person very different from the one who previously thought of life’s accomplishments in terms of body weight and audience reaction. Through caring for Angela, Penelope also learns to love the mother who had stood by her through every turn, even when Penelope turned away from her.
So beautifully crafted was this story, and so painstakingly developed were the characters, it is hard to find many holes. The one thing that nagged at me, though, throughout the entire story, sometimes to the point of distraction, was how anyone could survive a fall such as the one that Penelope experienced. The author touches on the very believability of this in the end pages, both in an “A Reading Group Guide” and “A Conversation with the Author.” Some will have no problems with this story of “miraculous survival,” while others will.
In the end, I was willing to suspend my disbelief that Penelope could have survived her fall, because of so many other redeeming qualities in this book. The mother-daughter relationship alone taught me something new about my relationship with my son. The multi-hued ways in which the author used the word, “falling” was another pay-off. And the inside peek into the rarefied world of dance was yet one more dividend The Art of Falling paid in return for my trust as a reader. Overall, I’m grateful for the time I gave, and for what I received in return, from The Art of Falling.