Keir Alexander - The Ruby Slippers (3 stars)

Keir Alexander - The Ruby Slippers

A simple message and some good characterisation survive Alexander's soap opera plotting

The seemingly unconnected cast of characters living in Manhattan in Keir Alexander's multi-narrative novel are gradually drawn together by a pair of ruby slippers. Originally worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, they are discovered in old Rosa’s filthy apartment and are worth a fortune.

The multi-voiced account covering different ages, genders and ethnicities is ambitious but several characters don’t ring true. Young delinquent Harrison starts out as a tough criminal, orchestrating two break-ins, emotionally abusing his aunt and even locking someone in a deep freeze to secure the slippers, but all it takes to completely reform him is a brief exchange with a pretty Christian girl.

The voice of Michael Marcinkus, a Latvian-American deli owner, is the most dominant and his story the most genuine. Through him and his aunt Rosa, Alexander explores the repression of memories by those who survived Nazi Europe and fled to the USA. Their respect for the slippers as a symbol of freedom and goodness is cleverly contrasted with what they bring out in Americans: greed, family division and violence.
Other storylines would be more at home in a soap opera: one character has a dying gay lover, estranged self-harming daughter and poisoned billionaire father, all of whom visit the same hospital. However, the simple message that you can’t put a price on family manages to survive the grandiose plot.

Published by Corsair on Thu 6 Mar.

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