TWIXT by Diane J. Reed...A Heartfelt Review

   What an enchanting novel  Twixt is, a treasure like the hidden fairy gifts that you will read about in Diane J. Reed's first book.  Of course the author, who I am convinced is a Fairy Queen in disguise, provided me with the pivotal transformative moment from which grew this blog.  But her book itself also was a gift to me in a myriad of ways.

(My copy...the first edition cover)

                Twixt is the perfect blend of contemporary fantasy fiction and romance.  The protagonist, Rose, returns to her hometown after a failed marriage with a drug dealer husband who eventually dies of an overdose.  That same night her spunky 4 year old daughter, Crystal,  nearly drowns and is left with terrrible neurological  problems.  As Rose tries to start over by renovating her father's gold-panning business, she is jeopardized by a dark curse which has followed her through past lives.  Her only "chance"  is Chance Murphy, a soul guardian who comes to her in the form of a raven. He leads her through her dreams to a magical Irish island between the worlds where her daughter's mind resides and is whole.  Together with the spirit of her ancestor, they attempt to get Rose to see the magic around and within her so that she can break the curse, banish the evil spirit ("sumaire," or leech) that threatens her family, and heal her present life.

                Diane writes with a captivating richness of detail, whether she is describing the fairy realm that spills over into the modern world or the protagonist's struggle to break out of a negative cycle in her life and reconnect with her family and ultimately herself.  The fairies are colors that "hovered at first, rising and falling as if engaged in a dance, then gradually they swirled with translucent abalone hues." (p.360) And a lovely tingle you will get from the romantic descriptions: "His settled his gaze on the bonfire and watched the flames rise high into the night, snapping gold and crimson, as bright as passion itself.  In that moment, he knew as sure as his own heartbeat why he had always guarded the O'Dannan woman so fiercely.  It was the oldest song on earth, the same one his soul  had been singing throughout the ages. And every note called out her name - " (p. 110) There is nothing better than to be immersed so deeply in an author's world that you lose perception of yourself as a separate entity from the book. It is evident how carefully Diane crafted her sentences and images, so that each one is saturated with meaning and a delight to read, the literary equivalent of biting into the fairy cakes that Rose bakes! Just the sheer pleasure of experiencing this brilliant tapestry of Diane's words inspired me to set pencil to paper again.

                I read the descriptions of beautiful blond-headed Crystal, and I saw in my mind's eye my own blond daughter: "As the wind tousled her hair, she raised her arms and began to spin." (p.216)  My daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder, and is sensory-seeking in vestibular processing, which means she craves more movement than your average child.  SPD is complicated, can involve one or several senses, and comes in many forms; some children need more stimulation from various senses and some actually feel physical pain from what to them is sensory overload.  Crystal appears to have neurological issues caused by lack of oxygen to the brain in her near-drowning; she rocks, spins, shrieks, draws repetitive images, is non-communicative and appears to be locked inside her own mind.  At Crystal's age, my daughter would rock, spin, bang her head on her pillow repeatedly during the night, and run around the dining room table for fifteen minutes straight.  She could not sit in school and would crawl under the tables and refuse to come out. Many autistic children show these same symptoms, especially the lack of communication and response.  Most autistic children have some form of SPD, although sensory issues can also stand alone, as in my daughter's case.  I was deeply touched by the portrayal of Rose's relationship with her daughter Crystal, her love for her and her distress over her condition.  "Rose lightly touched her belly, remembering the way Crystal shifted inside while she was pregnant, her tiny feet fluttering as if she were swimming.  She wished she could join Crystal in her private sanctuary, and she imagined the two of them submerged in water, their thoughts transcending the currents like dolphin songs.  Rose ached inside, wondering if they would ever communicate again, ever share the delight of sound and recognition."(p.30)  Several years of occupational therapy have worked wonders, and my daughter can now sit still at her desk in school and has more control over her  frustration outbursts.  She still loves to run, and soccer is her favorite sport, but she dances more than spins now.  She still rocks when she is buckled in on long car rides.  She has a vividly rich imagination and often lives in her own mind with the characters that she reads about in books and ones she creates; plenty of times you have to call her name repeatedly for her to hear you because she is quite literally in her own world.  This reminded me so much of Crystal truly living on the dream island.  I empathized  almost painfully with Rose's emotions, the sadness and loneliness and frustration of having a child with unique challenges.  But this is the moment that struck me most powerfully:

                "Stop being afraid, Rose," he insisted, his voice deep and threaded with challenge. "Love her for who she is now, not for who you need her to be."

                With that, he turned to the bedpost and removed the photo of Crystal that Rose had tacked up - the one of her daughter's perfect smile on her fourth birthday. Holding it at eye level, he boldly ripped it in half -

                Rose gasped as if she'd been slapped.  Ignoring her, he brazenly tore the halves into pieces and scattered them to the floor.

                Quickly, Rose bent down to scoop them up, her fingers working in a frenzy as though she might somehow put her daughter back together, when his forceful hand stopped her.  Chance grabbed the pieces from her palm and threw them aside like confetti.  Then he pointed his long arm to a stack of papers on the kitchen table -

                "And for God's sake," he commanded, "burn those damn progress sheets." (p.262)

          We worry through pregnancy and then love them achingly inside and out when they are born.  We count ten little fingers and ten little toes and plant a kiss on a perfect little nose and breathe relief in the cold hospital air.  It is only much later that we have the shock that not all is as perfect as it seems on the outside.  I remember my mother saying with grandmotherly pride, "Wait till the nursery teachers see her in those pigtails."  The teachers saw her indeed; they recognized what I, blinded fiercely by love as a first-time mother, could not.  How difficult it is to look at your beloved child and ignore the shadow of the ghost child behind them, the child that he or she could have been if not for the disorder or problem.  Honestly, and ashamedly, I admit I struggled with this for a time when my daughter was first diagnosed.  I learned the best thing I could do for her as her mom is to accept and understand her for who she truly is, good qualities and faults, as with any child.  My daughter has SPD, but it doesn't define her; it just means her brain is wired differently.  It is part of what makes her unique.  She is gifted and curious, reads two grade levels above her own and writes stories, dances and sings "rock operas" (stories sung to music) around the house, loves to play with her friends, and cracks herself (and her parents) up to no end.  Right now she has two gaps where she has lost teeth.  One minute she will be fighting with her younger brother and the next she will be creating a game with him, like all siblings.  Yes, she has her moments.  She still has difficulty with transitions and is very strong-willed, but her persistence can serve her well as an adult.  And with all of this, I would not change any of her qualities one bit, not even when she's being extremely difficult about something simple in our everyday routine.  I am proud of my girl, who she is and the strides she has made. So when Rose finally made that connection with Crystal by entering and accepting the magical world of her child's mind, I both cried and cheered.  Because, in my own way, I've been on that road she had to travel to get there.

                 "Where's your mother?" he asked. "Does she know you're here?"

                The girl lifted her hand to show him a crystal bracelet on her wrist.  She studied the fractured colors that lit up in the firelight.

                "Mommy's lost," she replied.  "She can't find me."

                Then the girl walked over to a stone well near the cottage.  Grasping a teacup on the ledge, she dipped it in the water and stepped over to the potato beds to sprinkle the plants.  Returning to the well, she leaned her hands against the stones.

                "Mommy can't see me," she said, peering inside,  "She can't hear me either."  Holding up her bracelet again, she twisted her wrist to make the prismatic hues scatter in the firelight.  "She's broken inside, like the colors-"

                With that, the girl held out her arms and began to spin, humming.... (p.106)
  My fairy girl spinning in the park when she was five

        A moment of self-discovery, of healing what has been cracked in the soul, often involves a physical movement symbolic of change, both in literature and in life.  Rose is caught in the negative cycle of an abusive, draining relationship repeated life after life.  Besides being disconnected from her daughter, she also has a strained relationship with her domineering older half-sister, Laurel.  Rose doesn't fully understand why she is so bound in misery.  As steps in breaking the hold of the "sumaire" over her and repairing her relationships with Crystal and Laurel, Rose performs two transformative acts of movement.  First she takes the symbolic leap of faith by believing in magic and jumping into the fairy ring.  This reunites her emotionally with her family. However, Rose becomes fully whole again through the healing power of true love with Chance.  Her daughter instructs Rose to dance while imagining that she is with Chance, who Rose thinks has been killed.  Although she is awkward at first, as she continues to move Rose lets go of her inhibitions and truly believes that Chance can be with her, dancing with her, and that she is deserving of such a pure love of a soulmate.  The fact that Rose had to believe in herself and find the magic inside her spoke volumes to my own situation.  My own transformative moment was the flash of creative fire, a physical heat sensation of a phoenix rising that pulsed throughout my being.  I swear it's the only moment in my life that I could actually feel the presence of my soul.  Before that, I felt a numbness that pervaded my days which saddened me, and I could not figure out its source.  The theme of self-discovery and its symbolic movements in Twixt were a beautiful reaffirmation to me that I was headed in the right direction finally, as was Rose.

                Twixt is available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.  I bought the paperback version, and I'm so glad I did!  I like e-books for ease and space, but some books you just want to feel the pages turning beneath your fingertips, and Twixt certainly is one of them!  It has an adored place on my bookshelf with my contemporary fantasy fiction novels by Charles DeLint, one of my favorite authors.  Diane Reed drew a fairy ring with her book Twixt, and it was a "fairy blessing" for me to jump right into it! 

             Thank you Diane, for the magic that your words brought back to me. I will be ever grateful.

Follow Diane on Twitter @DianeJReed and check out her lovely website Bandits Ranch for more information on Diane, her craft, and her inspirational musings. Diane has also written her second novel, Robin in the Hood, a young adult magical romance about a girl-turned-bandit which warmed my heart. Get thee to the bookstore today! Diane's books are must-reads to infuse magic into your day. Also find her colorful, inspiring boards on Pinterest.  She is a true gem of a writer and a wise soul.


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