Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story


Carolyn Turgeon’s “Godmother” could be read as a dark fairy tale or the fantasy of a literate madwoman, or both. Bearing the tagline “The Secret Cinderella Story,” this ingenious novel is narrated by Lil, the fairy godmother who was responsible for preparing Cinderella for the ball where she would meet Prince Charming. In “Godmother,” the story behind the fairy tale is a gloomy business. We’ve been led to believe that Cinderella and her prince lived happily ever after, but in this imaginative retelling everything went awry, and the fault was Lil’s. For her misdeeds she has been exiled to Manhattan, a far cry indeed from the fairy kingdom. The elderly Lil lives alone in a deteriorating walk-up in the garment district. Every morning she binds her wings with an Ace bandage and goes off to work at Daedalus Books, a used bookstore in the West Village. She loves the bookstore, but it can’t compare to her lost life in the enchanted lake. She longs to return home. When she meets Veronica, a beautiful, vivacious young woman with a history of romantic disappointment, Lil imagines that she can redeem herself if she can find Veronica the right man. “Godmother” is steeped in nostalgia for a lost New York, a glamorous place as fictional as the fairy realm. Turgeon writes beautifully. She tells this deliberately ambiguous story with delicacy and wit. This is a magical novel, in many ways.
—Diane White for the Boston Globe

“It’s a terrific book, sweet, touching and great fun—kind of Wicked meets La Cucina. I loved it.”
—Joanne Harris, bestselling author of Chocolat

“Godmother is earthy, lyrical, sensual and deeply, intelligently romantic. Carolyn Turgeon has a gift for mingling the magical and the mundane. Her earthy, sensual and richly imagined take on the fair folk should appeal to fans of Holly Black.”
—Alisa Kwitney/Sheckley, author of Flirting in Cars and The Better to Hold You

“Godmother is a transcendent little gem of a book.”
—Novelist Cherie Priest for Subterranean Magazine

“Turgeon’s work is haunting and hypnotic, blending the line of reality and magic into a gorgeous flowing narrative. Set against a modern day backdrop, this tale reexamines an all-too familiar story and breathes new life into it.”
—Anton Strout, author of Dead to Me

“With a fairy’s touch, Carolyn Turgeon expands the familiar Cinderella story into something deeper, richer and darker than we’ve ever been allowed. A stunning reminder that enchantment — both its pleasures and dangers—is as human as we are.”
—Daphne Gottlieb, author of Kissing Dead Girls

“Godmother is a true exploration of the dark vitality of city life and the hidden horrors of the fantastic.”
—Nick Mamatas, author of Under My Roof

“Turgeon must have a magic wand for a pen–these haunting, dazzling pages turn themselves.”
—Jennifer Belle, author of High Maintenance and Little Stalker

“Godmother’s a book of heartbroken magic for anyone who stayed up past midnight and wondered where the fairy tale went. A beautiful, aching book.”
—Warren Ellis, author of Crooked Little Vein

This retelling of Cinderella follows the oft ignored character of the fairy godmother, who may or may not be a mentally ill New Yorker. Lil, as this godmother is known, is now living in New York City, broke and employed at a bookstore, years after being exiled from the kingdom of fairies for betraying her charge. Condemned to live as an old woman, her wings bound to her back as penance, Lil is overcome by longing for what she has lost, slipping in her recollections of her idyllic past into the harsh present. When she meets Veronica, a young woman perpetually dogged with man problems, Lil sees an opportunity to redeem herself. But as the narrative progresses, cracks in Lil’s story (and psyche) emerge. Needless to say, readers expecting magical carriages and glass slippers will be surprised by the novel’s morose tone, and though the surprise conclusion doesn’t quite work, Turgeon’s takes on nostalgia and regret are surprisingly clear-eyed given her narrator’s unbalance.
Publishers Weekly

In a decidedly different take on Cinderella, Turgeon limns the travails of Lil, the fairy godmother chosen to ensure that, because she is fated to marry the prince, Cinderella gets to the ball. Lil, however, lets herself feel human emotions, falls in love with the prince, and goes to the ball in Cinderella’s place. The fairy elders banish her to the human world, where she lives, wings furled and bound behind her back, as an old woman working in a tiny Manhattan rare-book store. This take on the tale unfolds in alternating first-person accounts, one of Lil in the past, the other of Lil in the present, yearning to rejoin her sister and friends in the fairy world and finding a way to redeem herself when she meets Veronica, a vibrant young woman, and realizes that by finding a soul mate for Veronica, she could make up for that night so long ago. Lil is complex and appealing, and vivid imagery and lyrical writing give shape to a charmer with a very satisfying, enigmatic ending.

Cinderella went to the ball, Prince Charming fell in love with her, and they lived happily ever after. But what if the fairy godmother had gone in Cinderella’s place? Such is the twist on this retelling of the classic fairy tale. For her indiscretion, Lillian has been cast out from the world of fairies and into the human world. After hundreds of years in exile, Lillian longs to return home. When she meets Veronica, a beautiful, quirky young woman with a passion for life and belief in the impossible, Lillian sees her opportunity to make amends and find a way back home. Turgeon’s second novel (after Rain Village) thoughtfully peels away the layers of fairy-tale convention and delves deeper into the notion of true love—its cost, its power, its rarity, and its beauty. Romantics and fans of fairy stories of all kinds will be enthralled by this latest take on the Cinderella story. Recommended for all fiction collections.
Library Journal

“Don’t be fooled by the cheerful colors and whimsical design of Godmother, the second novel by critical darling Carolyn Turgeon (Rain Village). Though the premise is light and terribly sweet, the novel itself is a crushingly sad story told with beauty and earnestness…” Click here to read the full review.
Cherie Priest

Godmother is exquisite: oddly chic, dark, sweet and elegant… and not a zombie in sight. Turgeon has a light but meaty touch. The author has said that after her challenging debut, she was determined to work on something simpler. ‘I just wanted to work with something wonderful—a fairytale—and play,’ Turgeon has said. Godmother is a delicious departure.”
January Magazine