Isabel’s Starry Night
by Wanda Webster & Richard M.
Genre: General Fiction / Spiritual
Print Length: 138 pages
Reviewed by Susan Morris
A spiritual coming of age novel told with compelling social irony and wit
Wanda Webster and Richard M. have a knack for getting right to the root of so many current social and political issues.
Meet the story’s main character, twenty-one-year-old Isabel Hotchkiss, who wants to avoid celebrating her birthday and looks forward to an adventure traveling around the country alone to experience food festivals. She is, at times, quick to judge and comes to question herself, which I like about her.
There are other well-drawn and engaging characters in here too, enhanced by the dialogue and the unique character voices. Take, for instance, Grandma Ann with her Chanel No. 5 scent and pink Coach purse that: “Isabel’s mother once said, ‘If you opened the bag, you would see a tiny CVS store inside.’” Or how about Hank, a Greenpeace member driving a yacht-like RV plugged into a Walmart charging station with his Prius?
There is a lot to love in the rich dialogue, entertaining prose, and dynamic characters. They keep us invested in the journey from Isabel’s home in Oregon to Washington for apples, Idaho for spuds, California for its coast highway, and Iowa for sweet corn and The Field of Dreams.
And there are times when the story progresses naturally into philosophical territory, helping Isabel grow and learn. For instance, in the second chapter, during a conversation with Hank, they talk about Bruce Lee’s advice to “be like water” by accepting what life throws at each of us. In response, Isabel considers how she might be more resilient instead of “bitterly question[ing] how life kept throwing bean bags at her head.”
However, there are times when the author’s messages overpower the story because they don’t feel organic or necessary to the plot or character development. While Isabel is an extremely socially and politically aware twenty-one-year-old, there are times when confrontations quickly arise with minor characters.
A “Finger of God” element is at work in the plot as the authors introduce characters and then resolve anticlimactic conflicts with them once a point is made. In those times, the novel feels more like satire or a work of creative nonfiction than an immersive piece of fiction.
Philosophical discussions are hard to write while keeping an audience entertained. These authors do it well, taking readers on an intuitive philosophical journey. Wanda Webster and Richard M. have written a book that can help readers look at their experiences through an alternative perspective.
In the end, the message offered by Isabel’s journey is one of hope for young people, no matter how easy it is to feel disconnected, disconcerted, and indifferent to the obstacles facing them in America’s current social and political climates.
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