Friday, May 3, 2019

"A Lily in the Light"

Kristin Fields grew up in Queens, which she likes to think of as a small town next to a big city. Fields studied writing at Hofstra University, where she was awarded the Eugene Schneider Award for Short Fiction. After college, she found herself working on a historic farm, as a high school English teacher, designing museum education programs, and is currently leading an initiative to bring gardens to New York City public schools. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

Fields applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Lily in the Light, and reported the following:
A Lily in the Light follows eleven year old, Esme. Ballet is everything to Esme - until her four-year-old sister, Lily, vanishes without a trace and nothing is certain anymore. People Esme has known her whole life suddenly become suspects, each new one hitting closer to home than the last, including her brother, Nick, who Esme is speaking with on page 69 below...
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he whispered. Esme stared at the things in her brother’s room, things that belonged only to him: sweatshirts and baseball mitts, aluminum bats with missing paint chips, a bottle of Barbisol. She was jealous of the empty space on his walls.

“I thought I was helping.” Nick’s hand throbbed against hers like a beating heart.

“Where’d you go?”

“The depot,” he coughed. “And a few other places with pictures of Lily.”
Esme cringed at the thought of Lily in the depot. It was an old trolley barn. Sometimes Nick threw rocks at the windows. They all did. Only the highest ones were still in one piece and kids got as close as they could, picking through the chain link fence, stepping over old mattresses and torn trash bags. Homeless people lived inside with thrown-away things. The police found Denny there once after he’d been missing for a while. Esme was too afraid to ask what it was like inside.

No, Lily was with another family, like in storybooks where kids walked through cupboards and into other worlds. They fought wars against animal people, sailed imaginary ships across oceans full of paper monsters, met kings and queens, and came back unscathed but smarter. Lily would love that. It was make-believe, but even pretend stuff was based on real things. Even the possibility was comforting.
Accurate! Eerily accurate. Even on page 69, so much of Esme’s denial about her sister’s disappearance and coping through fantasy are already in full swing. The reality of the depot is too much. She can’t accept that her sister could be in a place like that instead of home, so she creates a storybook world for Lily instead.

Her inability to cope with Lily’s disappearance and the doubt it casts on everything closest to her, further entrenches Esme in ballet. Ballet becomes a similar storybook world for Esme, and it’s easier to accept that they’re both off on their own adventures. But it can’t stay that way forever, especially when a break in the case could shatter the imaginary world Esme’s created for herself and her sister. Page 69 captures the fragility of Esme’s relationship with herself, her family, and reality that plays out throughout the rest of the story.
Visit Kristin Fields's website.

--Marshal Zeringue