Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson
Harper, 2016; 304 pp
Reviewed by Charlie Riccardell
Sari Wilson’s debut novel, Girl Through Glass, is an engaging but often frustrating read, a book immersed in the ballet world but not always as graceful as its characters. The book volleys between two stories. The first is set in 1977 New York City where adolescent dancer Mira aspires for greatness as a ballerina, but she struggles with a fractured home life and the attention of an older patron who sees greatness in her. In the present day, we meet Kate, a middle-age ballet professor struggling to survive in her field amidst pressures from her career and a flirtatious female student.
How the two stories connect may not be readily apparent though expected, but the withheld information makes Girl Through Glass move in fits and starts as years pass in Mira’s world only for us to be thrust back into Kate’s and then back to Mira’s. The book’s shuffling pace only helps to draw attention to the arch dialogue or the broad characters of the past that feel more thinly sketched than those in the present day. These problems with the story are unfortunate because Wilson, a trained dancer, has a real command in scenes about the art of ballet and the culture that thrives around it. Our author creates a palpable pressure, especially for the roles that women play at different ages in this profession that demands everything from them, body and soul. While those scenes are commanding, they hardly salvage Girl Through Glass from the trenches of overwrought melodrama.