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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Freefall: A Divine Comedy by Lily Iona MacKenzie explores the complicated relationships between a group of four women. When Tillie, Daddy, Sybil, and Moll were mere teenagers, they were inseparable and collectively known as the four Muskrateers. Together they moved from the sleepy town of Calgary, Canada to the “big smoke” of Toronto. In the early 1960s, they all delved deeply into the hedonistic lifestyle of the time: free love, drugs, alcohol, and rock and roll. Although in the ensuing years there was some contact between individual members of the group, they had never been together again as a group since those heady days in Toronto. As they approach their sixtieth birthdays, they decide it is time to get together, to have a reunion and to rekindle the old spirit of the Muskrateers. Each of the women has gone their own way in the forty years since Toronto and the reunion is a discovery of each other all over again. When Tillie, an installation artist, suggests they all travel to Venice in September for the Biennale, an artistic extravaganza, and perhaps Tillie’s last opportunity to make her “breakthrough” in the world of art, the women reluctantly agree to accompany her. Will they “re-find” the love and camaraderie they once had for each other in Venice, and perhaps more importantly, will they discover their true selves and make the “golden years” of their lives still to come more memorable and ultimately successful?
Freefall is a truly superb piece of literature. Author Lily Iona MacKenzie has delightfully drawn these four women as characters reminiscent of stories of male mid-life crises. Seldom though have we had the opportunity to delve into the feminine psyche in such a detailed way as this author approaches it. All four of her characters are archetypal in many ways and have diverged totally from the fun-loving, free young women we initially meet in Toronto in the ’60s. Tillie, as the quintessential free-spirit, rides through this journey of self-discovery on the wings of her past, her present, and her future. At times she has conformed to “normality” but she has tried to remain true to her art form and her persona as the poor and struggling artist. What I particularly enjoyed about this story was the evocative language and writing style of the author. She manages to so totally embrace the reader and absorb them into these four different and quirky characters that one is often left shaking one's head and saying, “Hell, yeah, I can identify with that feeling.” MacKenzie achieves what all authors seek to achieve; she invites her readers to identify with one particular character and ask themselves, is that me? The reader is constantly challenged to consider their own position in life and compare the choices made by the characters to their own choices in life and to ask the question 'should or could I have done things differently or better?' Although listed as women’s literature, this book should not be pigeonholed in one category. It is a fantastic read for all ages and all sexes. I can highly recommend it.