It opens with a nameless woman: “She drove. And she drove. And then she drove some more. She drove with a purpose born of desperation.” When she stops to refuel and grab some coffee in a tiny town, she finds herself drawn to a junkyard with a bunch of long-neglected carousel horses. She talks the junkyard owner into letting her restore them, setting in motion a transformation for herself, the horses, and the whole town.
The merry-go-round lady is our way into the book and acts as a focal point for everyone and everything else in it. No one knows her name, including the reader, and information is only revealed about her at the slowest of paces. She’s clearly running from something and many times I questioned whether we’d ever learn what they were. It was an interesting move to let readers learn about her alongside the people in town who grow to care about her, and it worked with the overall tone of the book.
Every one of the townspeople we meet is affected by the merry-round-lady. Their lives are stagnant, with all of them existing rather than living. Her arrival shakes things up and the friendships she builds are beautiful, leaving her and each of them truly transformed and better off by the end of the story.
The Writing Style
The Carousel is like no other lesfic book I’ve ever read. The scenes are very short, shifting from person to person in town, sometimes even shifting perspective from one person to another within the same scene. The tone is quite dark and uncomfortable at first, and yet the writing is gorgeous, whether on the first page or the last (seriously, make sure to read the excerpt at the end of this review).
Every damn word. This book is brilliant.
More specifically though, I adore how Stefani Deoul writes friendship. The bonds that are built between the merry-go-round lady, Millie, Nan, and Cameron feel authentic because they’re so carefully built over time through caring and mutual respect.
This is more of a reviewing con than a reading con. The Carousel is a very difficult book to review, because I think you should go in cold, without knowing anything. That’s how I did it and I so appreciated getting to experience the story that way. And yet, this is a book review, so here we are.
Also not a con for me, but The Carousel isn’t a romance (at all). I don’t want anyone to ding this book in an Amazon review because they thought they were going to read about two women falling in love.
The Carousel is a beautiful book that kept me hooked with its artful writing style, and made my heart grow three sizes with all of the amazing character arcs. I cannot believe this is Stefani Deoul’s first book because it is such an incredible, special read—one of the very best I’ve come across since I started reading lesbian fiction 6 years ago.
Excerpt from The Carousel by Stefani Deoul
This time she allowed the rhythm of the stroking hand to move her from sleep to consciousness. Gently, lovingly, she was moved through the transition. She didn’t know why she trusted in this hand, but she did.
Now as she opened her eyes she took in a pair of deep brown eyes, recessed into a face withered with age. If wisdom were a portrait, she would paint this old woman. All that a lifetime of love and honesty could teach seemed etched into each crease.
She knew there had been a question asked but she couldn’t quite remember. The hand paused for the briefest moment and then began again. This time an ancient voice accompanied the caress.
“Let me tell you something about grief, child.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781612940892
- Publisher: Bywater Books
Stefani Deoul Online
Note: I received a free review copy of The Carousel by Stefani Deoul. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.