Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Appointment with a Smile by Kieran York

Publisher:          Blue Feather Books

Appointment with a Smile is the story of two weeks in the life of artist Danielle O’Hara.  For thirty years she has lived in Colorado, devoted to her painting and still in love with the woman who deserted her, Molly.  Danielle comes to London for a major showing of her work and by chance sees Molly again.  She also meets a beautiful woman named Bethany who is interested in a future with Danielle.  Danielle finds herself caught up in a swirl of emotions as the professional recognition she has always sought suddenly comes crashing down on her, the feelings she’s never given up for Molly come back with full force and she finds herself attracted to someone who tells her that her life doesn’t have to be as lonely as she has made it.  Danielle is forced to examine herself and her life and not everything she discovers is pleasant.

Kieran York has performed quite a feat.  She’s created a thoughtful, interesting story with a main character that is sometimes aggravating beyond belief.  Danielle is one of those women the reader might want to grab and shake until her head rattles.  If she were someone you actually knew, you’d want to yell at her, “What’s wrong with you?”  The fact that her friends in the book frequently do that makes the story more realistic.  One woman keeps saying she doesn’t want Danielle and another one very much does, but Danielle can’t make up her mind which one to pursue.  She’s a very complex character, sometimes admirable and sometimes hopeless.  At times it’s maddening to watch her possibly torpedo a chance for happiness.

York also chose to write about older characters.  That means that these women come with many more conditions and situations than younger characters would have.  Some writers have said that they veer away from older characters for this very reason.  York treats their issues as plot lines.  A woman has to have some age to have been hopelessly in love with a person she hasn’t seen in three decades.  Danielle also faces a very real concern when she wonders if she can make room in her life for a lover after the age of 60.  She’s used to living her life a certain way and she’s not sure she wants to change at this point or ask someone to move into her sphere.  Many older readers will be able to identify with that internal battle between finding someone to love and altering the comfortable patterns they’ve settled into.

The encouraging part of the story comes from Danielle’s friends.  Though they are the same approximate ages, they very much live their lives in the moment and with complete joy.  They provide the Greek chorus chanting in reply to Danielle’s pessimism that life isn’t over until it’s over and that she should grasp every opportunity to experience it to the fullest.  York uses Danielle’s friend Esther, an astrophysicist, in a sotto voce position.  Her comments about the universe, the expanse of time and the possibility of discoveries is in direct contrast to Danielle’s short vision.  Esther and the other women definitely believe that age is nothing but a number and is not the primary factor in what you decide to do.

There is a lot in this book.  It’s easy to forget that it only covers two weeks in time because so many issues are addressed.  It was refreshing to read about older characters dealing with what life throws at them.  Most lesbian fiction tends to feature characters between twenty-five and forty-five, but the population is aging.  There are many things in this book that an older woman can relate to.  There is also a message of hope in that love (and sex) does exist for older women, just at a different pace.

Appointment with a Smile is not just for older readers.  There are points here that can appeal to many ages.  However, it was nice to read about life from a different perspective.

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