Author: Kaya McLaren

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

ISBN-10: 1250013879

ISBN-13: 978-1250013873

How I Came To Sparkle Again, by Kaya McLaren, reads as if it's intended to be made into a screenplay for a chick flick. It is an undemanding melodrama which ending broadcasts it’s self within the first pages. That being said, McLaren has invested her characters with charm . . .and dare I say it?. . . plenty of “sparkle”.

Jill has come back to her hometown of Sparkle, a ski destination in the Colorado Rockies, to recover from finding her husband in bed with another woman not long after having had a miscarriage. She falls on the graces of an old friend, Lisa, who is the Wendy to three Peter Pans who live next to her in trailer called “the Kennel.” They work on the ski patrol and spend as much time as possible partying and having sex, though all of them are over thirty. Jill moves into the Kennel and finds part time work on the patrol, as well as a job babysitting Cassie, a ten-year old girl whose mother recently died from cancer. It is obvious at their first meeting that Mike, the girl's father, and Jill are meant for each other, but since their tragedies are so recent and wounds too fresh, tension develops between them.

Lisa and Tom, the least emotionally stunted of the men in the Kennel, have had a sexual rivalry for years, complete with a competitive game board with pictures of their conquests. They, of course, have sworn off having sex with each other, and their natural attraction . . . this couple is also oh so right for each other . . . complicates their interactions.

Jill's Uncle Howard is the old man of the mountain, a kind hermit, who foists copies of Siddhartha on skier and mountain wanderers, and doles out sage advice that no one understands but everyone respects. Jill's parents are Mormon missionaries and their belief she will not be with them in the after-life is another aspect that she must heal. McLaren's best work in this novel comes with the non-judgmental light-handed way she weaves the idea that there is a God whose love shows through imperfect people. Jill comes to love her horny, rowdy roommates, all of whom respect her wish to keep things platonic. Cassie's mother left her with a journal of letters, wishes, and prayers that comforts her daughter when things are bleakest. There is a motif of heart shaped objects that suggests that we never really lose those we love.

Sparkle resembles Homer, Alaska in the television show Northern Exposure with its quirky residence, small town traditions, a sense of the frontier, and a whole lot of snow. I thought the novel would be written in first person, as is the title, but we get into the heads and longings of all the major characters. Jill, though, is the thread . . . or perhaps the ski binding . . . that holds them together.

Sparkle is a good escape read, perfect for bathtub reading, a long weekend, or to take along on a vacation. In some ways, it's too bad the world isn't more like Sparkle. We'd be kinder and be having a whole lot more fun, even when the world turns upside down.

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