Ivory Apples


Lisa Goldstein


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

January 5, 2020

long time ago, I read another book by Lisa Goldstein, but it was so long ago I don't even recall which book it was. Dark Cities Underground sounds familiar, or was it the Red Magician? Walking the Labyrinth? I honestly don't recall, but I do remember that I liked it, and thinking that I ought to read more by that author. Fast forward a few decades, and I saw Ivory Apples by Lisa Goldstein displayed on the New Paperbacks shelf at my library. Hmm, that author's name sounds familiar. So I checked it out and was rewarded with another fine tale.

If classification is required, I supposed Ivory Apples would be listed under "contemporary fantasy" (is there such a category? Urban Fantasy?). It is the story of young teenager Ivy, the oldest of four sisters, who all live with their father Philip, a professor at the University of Oregon. (Ivy's mother is no longer living). The family has a secret - their great aunt Maeve is actually the author of a much beloved fantasy story called Ivory Apples. The story was published decades ago under the pen-name Adela Martin; the true identity of Maeve has never been revealed, despite a zealous fan base. Despite the passing years, and no further publications by "Adela Martin", her fans are as passionate as ever. The children's story Ivory Apples tells of a magical fairy land and the town of Pommerie, full of wonderful and fanciful characters. Ivory Apples is so well written its descriptions seem real, enchanting generations of readers with its picture perfect descriptions.

During a family outing to visit their great aunt Maeve, Ivy wanders off into the woods, crosses a stream and enters into the woods - and comes upon a strange scene. Could those be real fairies in that forest clearing? Is that really Maeve in the pool frolicking with the fey? During this encounter, Ivy picks up a magic guest, the chaotic personality whom she calls Piper.

Back in town, while playing in the park, the girls make a friend with a woman named Kate Burden. Kate is a wonderful character - Goldstein does a great job of manufacturing tension and radiating menace; Ivy can sense something seems wrong - is Kate just a little too friendly? Is it really just a coincidence that Kate met their family? Kate swiftly insinuates herself into family life, acting like an adult against the mistrusting but youthful Ivy (and her paranormal pal, Piper). Indeed, Kate reveals her villainous hand and tragedy unfolds, but still the girls will not give up aunt Maeve's secret. Ivy ends up fleeing, she opts to live in the streets to escape Kate's malign grasp.

This book could have been stronger if Goldstein had actually shown more of what made the children's book Ivory Apples such a fan favorite. There is a bit of tour of fairyland later in the book, but it did not strike me as whimsical and wonderful as (for example) Alice in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth, or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I wished to read what made Maeve's fans so passionate.

Ivory Apples is a good read, and I should keep an eye out for more of Lisa Goldstein's books - I might even have some of her older novels hidden on my bookshelf. Hopefully, it isn't another few decades before I read another of her stories.