Deoul, Stefani. “The Carousel”, A&M Books, 2010.
Catching the Ring
There are several things that I look for in a novel—a literate plot, well drawn characters and writing style. I am happy to report that Stefani Deoul has mixed the first two with gorgeous style and she gives us a beautiful novel with “The Carousel”. Using the theme of making things whole, the story centers on a mysterious woman who shows up exhausted and drained at a small town gas station and diner somewhere in northeast America. Her plan was to get gas, have a cup of coffee and continue her travels but something catches her eye when she sees some carousel horses in the junkyard nest to the station. She begins to formulate a plan to restore the horses to their former glory and to builds them a home on a carousel. This plan circulates through the town and gossip starts even though no one is really sure what he/she is gossiping about.
The thought of riding the carousel is a metaphor for a journey of hope of not only riding but catching the brass ring which brings luck and good fortune to whomever is lucky enough to perform the feat. To me the story is about beauty and how it can reside in the least expected place, whether that be a junkyard or within someone and how do we reach that beauty and when we do, what is next. The book looks at the restoration of the horses and the carousel and of the characters themselves. We soon see that by restoring art, life is also restored and hope is part of that life. The idea of restoring the horses and then the carousel brings about friendship and unity and as they work together, we see changes.
The beauty of the book, for me at least, was the recognition of those that we usually pay no attention to but when we do, we find that there is something there that is totally unexpected. We have a menagerie of characters that we like despite their oddities and as we talk with them, we learn less and less about the woman who saw the horses. She is mysterious and we want to know her but here is the mark of a good author, we do not get that chance until the end. There are twists throughout the plot that ultimately lead to redemption and the bringing together of pieces to make a whole. In refurbishing the horses, lives are rebuilt as are friendships and we read about this through writing that soars from the page and then lands in our hearts.
As I said in my first paragraph, the book is made up of the qualities I look for when reading and it surpassed my expectations. Even better is that there is a mystery here and we watch a town come together after it had split apart by love and loss. Even the secret past of the main character does not stop the townspeople coming together and the descriptions are detailed and vivid. As we learn about the woman’s past at the end of the book, we realize that she was never named yet she managed to bring characters together. As the carousel brought magic to the town, the characters brought themselves to each other.
It is the subtle metaphor of the carousel that is the backbone of the story. The various subplots come from the residents of the town and through them we learn about Judaism as well as other sides of other characters. We feel their love and their pain, their loneliness and their beauty. The metaphor is also used differently on different characters and as the characters come together so does the plot which is quite simply an exceptional read.