Lisa Goldstein’s Walking the Labyrinth

cover art for Walking the LabyrinthMarian McHugh wrote this review.

Molly Travers leads a simple life. She works for a temp agency; she has a friend who looks after her, Robyn Ann; and then there is Peter, a freelance journalist and the man she loves, though whether this is reciprocated is debatable. Her only other family is her Aunt Fentrice who has raised her since she was young, after the death of Molly’s parents in a car accident. Then one day she is approached by a private investigator while leaving her office for lunch. John Stow is helping his client track down any surviving members of a family that was anything but ordinary.

Molly brushes John off, but her interest is piqued. Her Aunt Fentrice has never mentioned any other family other than Uncle Callan, who died, let alone being involved with a magic show during the vaudeville era or having a sister, Thorne. Now Molly feels the desire to track her genealogy to discover her true self. While searching through an old trunk of Fentrice’s for her scrapbook from the vaudeville days, Molly finds a copy of “A History of the True and Ancient Order of the Labyrinth: A Lecture by Lady Dorothy Westingate, Adept of the Eight Grade. London, 1884.” Curiouser and curiouser.

Next thing Molly knows, she is jetting off to London with John Stow to view the property once owned by Lady Westingate, which has just returned to her family after having been sold to pay off debts. From then on things become only more complicated. Molly’s family turns out to have led anything but a simple life.

Walking the Labyrinth by Lisa Goldstein is the story of a young woman discovering who she really is through researching her family history. It is also a story of mystery, murder and mayhem. The reader becomes entrenched in Molly’s voyage of discovery, both of her family and of herself. By the end of the novel we have watched Molly grow from a young women not sure where life is leading her into a confident women on track with her life. We have seen her find her way by walking her own labyrinth.

The story is not only that of Molly but also of her family. We read her great-great-grandmother Emily Wethers’ account of her life — how she went from laundress to medium with what she called The Gift, something carried by all her family that allowed them to find items that were lost and to know personal details just from looking at someone. This was during the late nineteenth century, a time when the English aristocracy was totally enraptured with anything that pertained to spiritualism and the occult.

The reader is also provided with the opportunity to read the journal written by Molly’s grandfather, Callan Allalie, while he travelled with the Allalie family as a magician. This was following the family’s immigration to America after Emily and her lover Harry were involved in a scandal. The difference between the Allalie family and that of other magicians of the time is their magic was real. What the audience beheld was neither illusion nor trickery, but reality.

Walking the Labyrinth is a joy to read. Goldstein provides a very detailed story without wasting any words, and leaves the reading hoping for more. The different levels of story leave you guessing about what will be discovered next. Who are The Order of the Labyrinth and what secrets are they hiding that make them willing to kill? What was contained in the four pages of Emily’s autobiography that were torn out?

Well, to answer these questions you will have to read the book. I highly recommend it.

(Tor, 1996)

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Diverse Voices is our catch-all for writers and other staffers who did but a few reviews or other writings for us. They are credited at the beginning of the actual writing if we know who they are which we don't always. It also includes material by writers that first appeared in the Sleeping Hedgehog, our in-house newsletter for staff and readers here. Some material is drawn from Folk Tales, Mostly Folk and Roots & Branches, three other publications we've done.

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