Monday, May 16, 2016

Kathryn Cushman's "Fading Starlight" - gentle and unpretentious

Cover ArtAfter designer Lauren Summers gets all the blame for a high-profile wardrobe malfunction, her career in fashion is shot. An old professor dredges up a job for her designing costumes for a high school play, as well as a place to stay. Soon Lauren is approached by a reporter who is working on a story to prove the wardrobe malfunction was staged, and in return she'd like Lauren to report details about Lauren's reclusive, old Hollywood starlet neighbor. However, as she slowly works her way past the old woman's crusty exterior, it becomes apparent that not everything is as it seems.

Being a seamstress who loves vintage 40's and 50's clothing, of course I had to read this book. And, as hoped, I enjoyed the sewing/design aspect. The focus is on Lauren's story, but it occasionally gives flashbacks of Charlotte's life growing up; it's easy to see how the woman became so cynical.

Poor Lauren. Her reputation is in shatters, she has no job and no money, she ends up living inside a tent inside a house in the middle of direly needed repairs, and, icing on the cake, she has to deal with bratty high schoolers. And a cranky, untrusting neighbor. Yet she is a pretty balanced character; she understandably struggles with it all, but she is neither overwhelmingly woe-is-me nor over-the-top optimistic about her circumstances--she comes off just right.

When you have to rationalize in order to make an action seem okay, you can bet that that action is not right after all. Lauren finds herself doing that with the reporter, and as a reader it's pretty easy to want to yell at her, "it's a trap!" Of course, when one is in the middle of a sticky situation like Lauren's, it's a lot harder to catch it and do the right thing. Rationalizing is so, so easy in the gray areas of life. I thought it a good reminder, especially tied in with the verse from Judges that is mentioned throughout the story.

It's a gentle, enjoyable read, not too fast-paced, but never bogging down either. Unpretentious, rather like Lauren herself.

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing an e-copy for review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

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