All The Ever Afters by Danielle Teller
"Now that I am older and have seen so much more of mankind, I no longer believe that people are born without virtue. It gets beaten out. Misfortune threshes our souls as a flail threshes wheat, and the lightest parts of ourselves are scattered to the wind." p.60.
I really enjoy reading fairy tale retellings, especially when they are based on fairy tales I grew up with. There is just something really special about returning to a beloved tale as an adult, but from a different perspective. Certainly with more understanding and awareness. I have quite a few I've enjoyed that share a permanent place on my bookshelves. After I finished reading All The Ever Afters by Danielle Teller last month I put it on my shelves with the others and here is why.
First, this book was nothing like what I anticipated it to be when I had initially saw the cover and requested a copy from the publisher to review. I expected a lighthearted and drama filled read, with maybe some magic thrown in for good measure (it IS the story of Cinderella). When I read the synopsis and started reading I realized this was not the case and adjusted my expectations.
Thankfully, it didn't take me long to get into the story. We meet Agnes (the future "evil" stepmother to Cinderella) as a young girl off to work in the laundry room of a manor house. From there, Agnes's character develops into what will create the basis of the story. Much of what I loved about this book was the time we were given with Agnes before the story of Cinderella came into play. This gave me time to get to know her without my preconceived ideas of Cinderella's character interfering. By the end, I had all but given up on Cinderella as a character (although I LOVED how she was portrayed in this story) and spent most of the last half of the book wondering how Agnes could find peace in her heart after all she had persevered through.
This book reminded me a little of Wicked (which I also loved but started with similar expectations that ended up being false). There was a lot here in terms of class and race, morality and the affect our prejudices (and gossip!) have on others. Agnes's time as a mother and the way it changed her heart certainly spoke to me as well. Plus, it was simply nice to have a name for "The Evil Stepmother" once and for all.
"When my daughters left my body at birth, their roots remained behind, entwined in the flesh of my heart, wrapping tighter and deeper as they grew tall and strong in the light of the world. The blood in my veins sang their names with each heartbeat, and I did not know how to survive being torn from them." p. 197
"The stories we tell ourselves have great power." p..277