What else would I do for her? Or, what would I not do for her? I knew then – but how can I be sure that was the moment, there was so much more to come? – we were on our way down. I closed my eyes against the stomach-clutching descent. – from In the Time of the Feast of Flowers, page 68 –
Abby Newman is a teenager growing up in a small Florida town in the mid-1970s. She comes from a good family. She is smart. She has her whole future in front of her. But, then there is Dana, Abby’s best friend, a girl who lives life on the edge of disaster and tests the boundaries of good behavior. Dana comes from a home which includes a series of questionable step-fathers and a permissive mother. As Abby and Dana’s friendship grows ever closer, they begin to break in to local homes, slipping through windows in the dark of night, rummaging through other peoples’ hidden lives, and taking small items as souvenirs. Abby’s relationship with Dana becomes more than a friendship – she falls in love with this wild girl who dares to break the rules, and the two teens become secret lovers. As their world begins to spin out of control, the dark secrets of their lives will teach both of them lessons about betrayal, loyalty and the consequences of impulsive decisions made in a split second.
Tina Egnoski’s award winning novella, In the Time of the Feast of Flowers, is a sensitive coming-of-age story. Egnoski writes with authority not only about life in a small town, but about a generation growing up during the socially progressive years of the 1970s. Feminism took on a prominent role in the decade of the 70s, and Egnoski’s novella explores issues of sexual exploration and women’s rights through the eyes of two female characters. Abby’s struggle with her sexuality – gay or not gay? – and her crush on an English teacher, provide much of the internal conflict in the book.
Another strong theme is that of searching for one’s identity and the feeling of moving away from one’s parents and becoming more autonomous. Abby, who has been raised to follow the rules and who is expected to go on to college and a profession, finds her time with Dana thrilling and empowering.
How do I describe the heightened thrill of standing in an empty house, adrenaline pumping in my chest and at my temples? Both invincible and invisible, I left behind my cautious self and became, even if for only a few minutes, someone else, as if by turning the doorknob and stepping inside – zip, flash, bang – I was confident and stealthy, in charge. – from In the Time of the Feast of Flowers, page 27 –
Egnoski’s writing is poetic and her characters ring true. The complex relationship between Dana and Abby drives the plot, and although I was not completely surprised by the turn of events toward the end, there was enough tension to keep me turning the pages. Ultimately, despite some personal tragedy for the characters, the novella delivers a hopeful message that we can survive our deepest mistakes and move forward into a satisfying future.
I graduated from High School in 1978, and related to many of the references in this book. Egnoski includes the music, dress, attitudes and technology of a time that helped form the woman I became, making this a novella which felt meaningful to me on a personal level. Readers who enjoy novellas, coming-of-age stories and books which explore complex themes, will find In the Time of the Feast of Flowers an intriguing read.
In the Time of the Feast of Flowers won the 2010 Clay Reynolds Novella Prize.
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FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher/author for review on my blog.
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