by Lily Iona MacKenzie
A fascinating read: * * * * *
From the start, MacKenzie creates worlds within worlds as her characters float back and forth in time, experiencing moments both lived and imagined. Filled with dreams, hopes, drama, the mundane and the mystical, each character travels through space (geographically from Scotland to Canada to Mexico) and time (past, present and future). In the same breath, then in skipped breaths, MacKenzie flings us in and out of the overflowing lives of three generations of women.
After celebrating her 90th birthday, “Bubbles” is determined to collect her deceased mother’s ashes in Mexico. She believes that having the ashes will allow her to feel closer to the mother who had abandoned her. Determined to see if such a journey will allow her to release “the memories buried under resentments she’s amassed over the years,’’ Bubble’s daughter, Feather, agrees to accompany her mother. Understanding now that “one person’s mess can be rooted in another generation,” Feather begins the journey wanting to forgive her mother and to find respect for all the women in her family who followed their dreams even as they left poverty and children behind.
Weaving stories of love and lust between other tales of broken marriages, loneliness, and longings, MacKenzie succeeds in filling our appetite for finding meaning and placing closure on the pains of the past, while living uninhibited adventures in the present.
In the final act of Thornton Wilder’s “OUR TOWN,” when the dead who inhabit the town’s cemetery take front and center stage, the main character, Emily, ultimately returns to the cemetery saying of the living: “They don’t understand.” So, too, in FLING, we find not only the ashes of a grandmother long since dead, but a woman who magically comes to life. The fine line between memories, life, death, and an eternal search for feeling connected to family, to what’s real, and to what’s larger than life, is skillfully navigated by MacKenzie, who respects and helps us to understand each of her quirky – sometimes introspective, sometimes wise – but always marvelously fascinating and entertaining characters.