Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World is one of those books that, for me, came at the right place and the right time. It is thanks to Neil Gaiman that I even found it. He mentioned a radio show he was participating in for Wisconsin Public Radio called To the Best of Our Knowledge and it was about The Uses of Enchantment. It included Gaiman, AS Byatt, Salman Rushdie and an author I had never heard of; Signe Pike. While the whole recording is amazing (you can download it here) Signe’s part was particularly fascinating to me:
Just because we’ve all grown up and aren’t supposed to believe in fairy tales and magic doesn’t mean we don’t still need them. This hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge offers conversations with Neil Gaiman, A.S. Byatt and Salman Rushdie about the uses of enchantment. Signe Pike starts things off with her story about the search for magic. She chucked her job at a NY publishing house to looking for fairies in Mexico and the British Isles. Signe Pike talks with Anne Strainchamps about her novel “Faery Tale.
We’ve all wanted to “chuck” our jobs to pursue something we would much rather be doing. Signe actually went out and did it. After the death of her father, Signe found herself feeling lost. Despite her promising career, and the love of a good man, something was missing in her life. Before walking down the aisle, she decides to find it. She quits her job, moves to South Carolina, and then sets out to find something to believe. She sets out to find the faeries.
As she tours through Mexican, England, Scotland, and Ireland, Signe takes us, the reader, to dark glens and ancient forests, sacred sites and the random local pub and meets a whole cast of intriguing characters. She seeks not only to heal the hurt of her father’s death, but looks to find her own lost sense of wonder, of imagination, of belief, and purpose. What she finds along the way exceeds her very dreams and expectations.
I say that Faery Tale came at the right place and the right time because I was (and still am to some extent) having issues with my own beliefs. I know what I believe, but sometimes, well, it’s a struggle. It’s hard to believe in the unseen. In my mind, it took real guts to not only quit her job to go searching for faeries, but to admit that she was in fact LOOKING for faeries. Faeries are not something you hear a lot of adults believing in. I really admire Signe for doing what she did. It was what she needed to do, for herself, and I deeply admire that. I hope to follow her example, not by going out to find the faeries or anything (because dude, some of them sounded kind of freaky!) but to go out and find what I believe in. Not even to find the proof of its existence per say, but to find my faith in it. Signe’s attempts to connect with the spirit world left me yearning to do the same thing. It seems as we age, we loose that sense of wonder and fascination with the world; the wonder and fascinating I see in my own children’s faces. I want to get that back.
Faery Tales was, in a word, captivating. I could not put it down. Signe has a singular voice, full of wonder and heart. It sincerely felt like catching up with an old friend. And the places she went to! I want to go visit them all! Well, all, except for maybe the Mexican hotel she stayed at. If you want to know why, read the book. She has a very unusual experience in Mexico that I know I won’t soon forget!
Thank you, Signe, for your wonderful book. I can’t wait to read about what you do next.
Favorite Quotes (just a few, I could quote the whole book):
When I was a little girl I believed in faeries as a matter of course. To say I was obsessed with faeries wouldn’t be the truth-I simply believed in them is all. When my father took me and my sister walking, I imagined there were faeries everywhere: flitting through the bushes, underneath the toadstools, balancing on the petals of the flowers that forced their way through the snowy winter crust of spring.
This is so ME when I was little. I just never felt quite alone outside. Did you ever feel that way?
Worse, somewhere along the way I lost my faith in humanity.
I began to wonder where all our innocence goes and why we let it slip away, when the thing to do at a time like now is to fight it. How might it change the world if we could reclaim some of our magic? How would we look at one another, treat one another, if each of us recognized that inside every man or woman is alittle boy or girl who loves popcorn, is still afraid of monsters under the bed, or believes that fairy tales really docome true? Maybe we would treat each other with more kindness, more carefully, more respectfully.
I wanted to find something of the beauty of myth that we’ve left behind, carry it’s shreds before us all, so we could acknowledge it, somehow bring it back to life. I wanted to delve back into that world that cradled us when we were young enough to still touch it, when trolls lived under creek bridges, faeries fluttered under mushroom caps and the Tooth Fairy only came once you were truly sleeping. I wanted to see if enchantment was somehow still there, simply waiting to be reached. When I felt my loss, I realized that if I could do anything in this life, I wanted to travel the world, searching for those who were still awake in that old dreamtime, and listen to their stories-because I had to know that there were grown-ups out there who still believed that life could be magical.
And in that moment, I decided, I am going to go find the goddamn faeries.
Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World
By Signe Pike
Pub. Date: November 2010
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Format: Hardcover , 320pp
Source: The Library
Links lead to Barnes & Noble where, if you should by the book, I would make an infinitesimal profit.