Review: Girl In The Mirror by Alix B. Golden [Paperback]
All Christen Calhoun really wants is to be a successful photographer, love a beautiful woman, and make her father proud, but easier said than done. When she graduates from Savannah State University, a dead end bank job isn’t what she had in mind. She stifles her creativity in bland business suits while her camera collects dust in the corner of her modest studio apartment. Her inability to decipher lust from love often leaves her sexually satiated, but emotionally bereft. When her soul is drained, as well as her bank account, will she take the advice of her father, Pop Calhoun, and find a good man? When she no longer recognizes her own reflection, she realizes she isn’t willing to give up anymore of herself to earn approval from her father. When Pop loses an unexpected battle with cancer, does she continue to push her dreams aside or is she finally honest with the girl in the mirror?
The Book Review
As it relates to writers… there are people in this world we pass by without giving a second thought or a passing glance to the work they have created. That work is sometimes visible to those who know but for some reason their spirit remains passively contained even in the midst of a moving crowd. I have concluded that these particular individuals have an innate humility that has long been tempered and harnessed within. They are humble and bright; geniuses of their own accord and in their own right. They remain invisible to those who will eventually know better. This manner of invisibility rarely if ever persists because <some> (most) if not [all] of them have amazing stories to tell; if only we’d take the time to listen and hear well.
As I have previously written, there is a blogger whose writing has always impressed me. She goes by the pseudonym – Alix B. Golden. She is a carefully crafted writer who knows more than what is necessary to keep a reader engaged. Her debut novel is no different and I believe it is safe to say, her writing makes it feel as though you are an intricate part of her story.
Alix B. Golden wrote a prequel to the book review that follows. That book is titled Girl, Shattered. Golden was good enough to follow up her prequel novel with a highly engaging, greatly anticipated, published debut – Girl in the Mirror. It continues the story of Christen Kalhoun, narrated from the first person perspective. The story delves into Christen’s vulnerable mind state and captures in one sweet moment at a time the drama surrounding her personal life and all it encompasses, particularly where matters of the heart reside. Rest assured that you can read Girl in the Mirror without having first read Girl, Shattered.
Thoroughly appreciating the cleverly styled mix of strong and appealing characters with just the right pinch of dervishly whirled drama, I eagerly devoured this 200 page book in a matter a days. The best part about the novel is its realistic and sympathetic plot which should appeal to just about any woman who has ever desired the love and appreciation of another while also questioning her sexuality in the process. In other words, most women will be able to relate to the the story leaping off the pages of the book – revealing Golden’s keen eye for insight into the life of the passionate, single woman.
This novel offers a nicely balanced mixture of brutal honesty, refreshing realism, unspoken love, agonizing loss, and the intensity of lust personified through insurgent romance. This novel should be required reading for any woman, lesbian in particular, who has ever struggled with the dangerous habit of confusing lust with love and eventually finding redemption while looking through the eyes of the girl in the mirror.
The novel could be a memoir for any new school lesbian that has yet to encounter the many pangs of heartbreak. The way Golden depicts Christen Kalhoun’s escapades resolves that we at least try to understand her limited perception of love and how it indirectly affects almost every area of her life. Where one half of the cup represents a new found financial stability, the other half reflects a major missing piece; the fulfillment of the healthy, loving relationship Christen so badly wants. What she doesn’t realize is that relationship she seeks can only be found in herself before the other half can be found in someone else. The girl in the mirror sees the cracks she has inflicted reflected back on to her and the void left behind when ever she satisfies an empty carnal desire, which always comes at an unrelenting emotional cost.
I love that I can reminisce on some of my previously failed relationships while reading certain scenes in the book. I also appreciate the author’s ability to place minute themes into the story line which periodically caused a double take. By re-reading a line here or there and then silently exclaiming “ah-ha!” at the realization that multiple plots have come together nicely and set the stage. It is a mechanism that makes any author’s writing style uniquely theirs and Golden pulls this off flawlessly, the whole story throughout.
Having been exposed to the multitude of secondary characters, the good news is they are all easy to follow and they fit right into the story perceptively. Christen’s childhood friend Syd; the strong, silent type who has cared for Christen’s ailing father while she was off in Savannah trying to make a good life for herself. Then there’s Mason; tall, dark and handsome. He is the male archetype that almost every lesbian has had the pleasure or displeasure of meeting at some point in life. He has a formidable sexual energy that initially gives Christen a run for her money. Being wooed by Mason casts further doubt about her sexually, but is falling in love with a man on Christen’s agenda? His gentle yet persistent nature evolves in a way that eventually convinces Christen that maybe her father was right all along. She simply needs a good man to sweep her off her feet to find happiness.
The characters are well written, whether of the garden variety or an artistic blend of individual uniqueness, they are all separate people with their own penchants for love, lust and everything in between. This array of supporting characters is as clearly defined and fully three-dimensional as the main character.
Contrary to what one might expect from the title – Girl in the Mirror is a story about identity, courage and vulnerability when faced with the everlasting desire for love and happiness. Christen’s addiction to high risk relationships laced with unhealthy build ups of sexual desire land her in the most precarious situations. While her need to fulfill carnal desires are more subtle initially and completely devoid of strong emotional connection we find that Christen is in fact very protective of her truest emotions and guarded to the point of compartmentalizing them as a defense tactic.
She is attractive and intelligent, although at times seriously lacking common sense which is repeatedly tested; for instance, when she decides to trust in the throbbing ache of her pussy time and again instead of curing the problem which lies in the throbbing loneliness of her heart. She chooses to place band-aids on her wounds instead of healing the previous broken hearts that opened them.
Even Christen’s attraction to Syd, her child-hood best friend and close friend of the family, is as two-fold as their current relationship. The love between them appears significantly, almost reassuringly subtle. Although her heart has always been safe with Syd she isn’t sure she is ready to take the relationship beyond what it is; an intense platonic love. And neither is Syd from the looks of it.
It is Christen’s coming of age that gives me the slightest pause. As she climbs out of the shell she’s been trapped in, we the reader climb out with her. The expectations of her father, Pops, have awakened somewhat of a panic in Christen and now it’s up to her to figure out what she not only wants out of life, but what she truly needs from it.
Golden’s keen eye for character and situational details lies directly in the details. She did not disappoint in that respect. The plot, carefully woven, takes on a plethora of twists and turns that is unexpected and may seem unremarkable at first but every one is deliberate, fluent and well crafted. It may not be immediately noticeable because she cleverly masks that eye for detail by refusing to acknowledge the well arranged twists and turns, instead leaving the reader to navigate those well charted depths alone until they are later explained.
The sex scenes are described in the most tantalizing detail; they are indeed graphic but not overly done, and if you are shy you will be left blushing and perhaps some other unspoken words. The eroticism in Christen’s liaisons and the way she gives her body to her lover reveals a deep seated outlet for her insatiable desires. The sex scenes are full of sensuality, passion, vulnerability and extreme realism.
This is a coming of age story for the mature, sexy reader who may at one time or another have been the girl in the mirror.
Pre-order at www.alixbgolden.com.