Faye, Faraway is the debut novel by British author, Helen Fisher. It’s a relatively short read at just under 300 pages, and I managed to read it in about three sittings before bed. This is low fantasy, and it focuses more on the human aspects of the story, predominantly grappling with grief and loss into adulthood as well as coming to terms with unknown elements of one’s past.
Faye is a happily married mother of two little girls, Esther and Evie. Life is pretty much perfect, except for the fact that she hasn’t yet figured out how she feels about her husband, Eddie’s, plan to become a vicar. She has a good job that she enjoys, and her life has felt complete except for one very important aspect. She lost her mother under very strange circumstances when she was 8 years old. Now in her thirties, she still doesn’t understand exactly what happened to her mom all those years ago. One day, after coming across an old picture of her as a child sitting inside the box to a space hopper toy from the 1970’s at Christmas, she finds the very same box in the attic of her house. She steps inside the box and is transported back through time to 1977, a time before her mother died. Faye realizes she can use the space hopper box to travel back in time to visit her mother and the pint-sized version of herself, stay as long as she likes, and only three hours have passed in the present by the time she returns home. Drama ensues in both timelines, and Faye begins to realize how dangerous her actions are. She fears the effect she will have on both the past and the future. Can she salvage a relationship she’s been mourning for 30 years without damaging the relationship between herself and the people she loves today?
Side note: I was an 80’s kid, and I wanted to know what a space hopper was, and I found it. Frankly, when I first started reading the book, I envisioned the product from the 80’s that was actually called a pogo ball. Here is a comparison of both just for fun, as well as a delightfully random story about a man who crossed the Alps by bouncing on a space hopper the whole way. Enjoy…
I really wanted to like this book a lot. I enjoy a great time travel novel, especially one with a pretty inventive premise, like this one. I kind of like the idea of the mode of time travel being tied to a sentimental object from childhood. I only wish it had been more of a sentimental object from her childhood. The toy, itself, didn’t really seem to be of that much significance to Faye as a child, so it’s really just that the box was the only thing left from that time period. It was a link to the past by its mere existence, which is ok but slightly less touching. Perhaps the roller skates would have made more sense, but then there’s the issue of the fact that Faye didn’t have the roller skates until Faye gave them to Faye and now my head has exploded because time travel gets confusing.
The writing is quite good and extremely lyrical. I didn’t have any issues with the pacing of the book, but something still felt a little off to me. Upon reflection, I think it all boiled down to characters. I didn’t dislike Faye, but I didn’t really like her either. I found her a bit difficult to gauge. Her motivations, especially, were a sticking point for me. And then she had a tendency to be a bit pretentious, especially with her mother. Like the scenes where she chided her for smoking pot and climbing trees. A woman who risked her life and safety to visit her long-dead mother in the past, with no regard for what would happen to her family back in the present, is lecturing said dead mother on the perils of marijuana? Plus, Faye of the present lives in a time in which we are growing to understand marijuana isn’t bad for you and, in fact, can be quite good medicinally. It’s quite grating when a character vacillates so quickly between juvenile recklessness and haughty pretension. Don’t get me wrong, I love flawed characters. I don’t want Faye to be perfect or make perfect decisions, but somehow this particular grouping of complex contradiction just didn’t work for me.
And that brings me to Eddie. I just plain didn’t like him. I’m not really sure why. He was presented as a good husband and father, but I didn’t find him believable. He was either hot or cold and rarely anywhere in between. His anger and aggression toward Faye in one part, in particular, was actually alarming, even if it came from a place of fear for her safety. And then he didn’t at all have the expected reaction to things Faye confessed, and that caught me off guard. Without giving spoilers, as well, I kind of hated the fact he was eventually given a big hero moment. I didn’t feel this was his story, and I felt that Faye was robbed of many essential powers right at the last second. Perhaps I’m the only one who felt this way, but it just didn’t sit well with me.
On another note, the ending did catch me quite off guard. Again, no spoilers… I felt like I probably should have seen it coming, but I simply didn’t. That is definitely to Fisher’s credit, because I do enjoy being taken by surprise. But I’m also left with so many questions now that the novel is over. And, I can’t really explain why without giving spoilers, but I don’t really feel like the ending was all that happy. Depending on your perspective, it’s either happy or incredibly tragic. I’m not really sure where I stand on that. Perhaps that is also to the author’s credit. What I thought would be a feel-good heartwarming story became somewhat muddled by intrigue.
One more thing: I’ve seen no other reviewers mention the Wizard of Oz parallels. Faye is swept up in a dangerous tornadic gust that blows her to another land. A pair of shoes/skates plays an integral part of her quest. And most glaringly, she’s orphaned and raised by Em and Henry, just like Dorothy Gale is raised by Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. Honestly, it’s subtle enough I’m not even sure it was intentional. I tend to overthink, and this is probably ridiculous.
Anyway, I did enjoy reading this but not as much as I’d hoped I would. Overall, 3 stars.