Dance, Gladys, Dance by Cassie Stocks

I had no point of navigation but I was hell-bent on finding my way to Ordinary.  I didn’t know what I hoped to find on that voyage or, God forbid, at the end of it, but I knew there was nothing but bilge rats and bullshit on the course I’d been following.

That’s our introduction to 27-seven-year-old Frieda Zweig, who is currently living with a friend, job-hunting, and trying to ignore her love for painting.  After a couple failed romantic relationships and a few hard critiques of her art, Frieda just wants to live an ordinary life… whatever that is.  A classified ad in a newspaper catches her attention, introducing her to Gladys and Mr. H.

Mr. H is a widower, estranged from his only son and active at the local art centre, who has decided to rent out his upstairs room because he’s lonely living by himself.  As he and Frieda try to help each other, they meet a host of other zany characters, including Frieda’s ex-boyfriend Norman and Mr. H’s movie-producing song Whitman.  Soon, this unusual group of friends is embarking on a crazy plan to save the art centre.

Dance, Gladys, Dance is Canadian author Cassie Stocks’ debut novel.  This book was fun from page one to the end; I laughed aloud in several places.  I wasn’t totally sure how I’d feel about reading a novel with a ghost, but I loved the way that Cassie handled Gladys’ character and her relationship with Frieda.  Each of the characters in the novel was distinct and unique, yet also completely realistic and likeable.

One of the things I liked about this novel was how Stocks brings alive a variety of characters on the margins of society.  Mr. H and Miss Kesstle are seniors living alone.  Marilyn and Girl are doing drugs and nearly homeless.  And Gladys simply needs to tell her story, as she was shunned and ostracized during her life.  Telling stories and living your dreams are big themes in this novel.

Dance, Gladys, Dance is a witty, affectionate tale—with a supernatural twist—of several women who are coming to grips with the dreams they’ve sacrificed or outright given up, and the changes that they make to their lives to follow their dreams once again.

For more about Cassie Stocks, visit her website or come back next week Thursday for her guest post right here on The Koala Bear Writer.

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