Lil is a older woman who works at a bookstore, lives simply and frugally (out of extreme necessity), and has a great love for one of the books in the bookstore: a valuable copy of Cinderella. Is this the sum of Lil or is she also who she claims to be, the exiled fairy godmother from the Cinderella story? As Lil goes about her day, with her tell-tale wings bound tightly to her back, she describes her life as a fairy godmother and the mistake that led her to be cast out from her life. She made the mistake of falling in love with the prince herself and went to the ball in place of Cinderella. Convincing herself that she will be re-admitted to the fairy realm if she rights her wrong, she determines to help unite her new friend Veronica and her kindly boss George, both unlucky in love and bearing melancholy scars.
Lil's rendition of the real Cinderella story starts off lightly but soon becomes more and more dark in feeling as she prepares to tell of her ultimate betrayal as a fairy godmother. Likewise, the story of her small existence in the human world starts to sound more menacing even as her plans for George and Veronica seem to be coming to fruition. The end to Lil's Cinderella story is unexpected, foreshadowing the end of the book. The ending completely changed my reading of the story. The impressive twist turns the lightness of the early story on its head and pulls the curtain off the life of quiet desperation that Lil has led for so long. This was a completely engrossing book, impossible to put down which I read in less than a day. But I am left ambivalent about it, although certainly still pondering it even weeks later so it clearly captured me in unusual ways. A real departure from my usual type of book, the glimpses of the magical world enchanted me but the loneliness of the human world counterbalanced the fantasy. So many questions remain in the end that I was left with a sense of unease, feeling decidely disturbed. Regardless of my own reaction, I don't think there's any doubt that this is a highly unusual and readable book, carefully crafted and taut with emotion.