Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Hometown Review of WHIMSEY: A NOVEL


There's a lovely review of my WHIMSEY: A NOVEL in the April edition of All About Women Magazine written by Ariel Parsons. I am a very happy girl.  I'm not sure if the latest edition is available on-line yet or not (my Adobe Flash and Google Chrome seem to hate one another), but if not, it should be fairly soon - - http://www.aawmag.com/

It's always a feel good thing to read a nice review.  Always.  And to read one in your hometown magazine?  wow.  That is such a rush.

And then to top it off, to read one which has been so well thought out is something to truly, truly treasure.  Ariel Parsons liked my Whimsey.  That feels great.  But - more importantly, she "got" it.

She got what was in my heart and what I so hoped to share.  There are no words to say exactly what that means, or how it feels, to a writer.

My thanks, Ariel.  And my gratitude.

The article is no longer available on-line - so here 'tis . . . 

"Sprinkle a piece of southern women's literature with a dash of pixie dust, and Kaye Wilkinson Barley's debut novel, "Whimsey" is the result.  Equal parts spunk and elegance, cigar smoke and iced coffee, the book delivers on the name.  "Whimsey is just that: whimsical.

Barley attributes her first novel to a quote by Toni Morrison: "If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."  With "Whimsey," that is exactly what she did.  The results of her endeavor have been compared to novels by New York Times bestseller Sarah Addison Allen and deemed "delightful" by North Carolina author Margaret Maron.

The story revolves around the Island of Whimsey, a colony of artists founded by matriarch Elizabeth Calhoun off the coast of Georgia in 1949.  The community is an artist's dream world, complete with small town camaraderie, luscious seascapes, and dark nights that promise a thousand stars.  But, there is more to the island than pretty scenery or even the talents of its residents.  The "certain something else" means that on Whimsey, the mildly supernatural becomes commonplace, and artists are rarely at a loss for inspiration.

After following a doomed marriage to Atlanta, jewelry designer Emmaline Hamilton Foley, grandniece of Elizabeth Calhou, has "lost her magic," so to speak.  It will take a devoted family and a few girlfriends who won't take no for an answer to draw her back to the island home of her youth.  With her Aunt Zoe planning a new upscale gallery to showcase local talent, Emma can only hope to recapture the spark in her own designs, in time for the grand opening.  But first, she must confront old heartbreaks, long-standing rivalries and her own loss of confidence.

"Whimsey" shifts seamlessly between reality and fantasy, enchanged glitter and everyday magic.  The story is perhaps more similar to magical realism than traditional fantasy.  In the insular world of its sprawling cast of characters, no one bats an eye at the occasional watchful ghost or sassy pixie.  And in truth, these nods to fancy are mere seasoning.  The driving force behind "Whimsey" is a more subtle magic: the love and support of family, the shared joy between friends (here, splendidly dubbed the "Wicked Women of Whimsey"), and the infectious drive of a creative community.

One might even speculate that the magical quality of the Island of Whimsey comes to stand in for those indefinable urges that inspire passion of all kinds.  Barley has created a utopia where following the desires of one's heart is both a worthy and profitable pursuit.  On Whimsey, hard work is rewarded, second chances have a chance, and no one is allowed to give up on herself.

Barley's writing is optimistic and upbeat, laced with a cheeky, good-natured humor.  The story has a southern flavor that brings to mind humid summer days on the Georgia coast.  Barley's love of the landscape is clearly evident in her multi-colored descriptions, and readers may find themselves wishing that they could be transported literally as well as figuratively to a southern shoreline at sunrise.  Also apparent is the author's appreciative eye for creative work, whether jewelry, pottery, paintings, or lace-toed stockings.

Barley says that if she could say anything to inspire women, she would tell them that they are never too old to spread their wings, to do the things they always wanted.  Her "Whimsey" presents the fictional story of a series of talented women willing to take that risk, and the book itself is proof of the living truth in her words.  Ultimately, the novel is a celebration of creativity and self-fulfillment.  For anyone who is not too grown-up to believe in the power of chasing after the things they love, or to smile at a pixie in Louboutin heels, "Whimsey" presents a fun, light-hearted read and a reminder never to stop dreaming."

"About the Author:

Kaye Wilkinson Barley, a retiree of Appalachian State University, lives in Watauga County with husband Don and "Wonder Corgi," Harley Doodle Barley.

She serves on the planning committee for the High Country Festival of the Book and is a contributing writer for several blogs, including the Jungle Red Writers and Barley's personal blog, Meanderings and Muses, which spotlights other authors worth watching.  Barley's nonfiction has been included in two Western North Carolina anthologies, "Clothes Lines" and "Women's Spaces Women's Places."

Barley self-published her first novel, "Whimsey," in 2013 and hints that a sequel is in the works.  She will be in Asheville on April 21 for a "Whimsey" reading as part of Malaprop's Bookstore's self-published and small press local authors series.

Keep up with book signings and other events through her website, www.kayewilkinsonbarley.com"

Written by Ariel Parsons.  A graduate of Appalachian State University, a quintessential English major and self-proclaimed word junkie.

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