Girl Through Glass, the debut novel from Sari (rhymes with airy) Wilson, may be set in the cut-throat world ballet, but this is not a story about dance. It’s about what happens when a person’s world shatters apart and how those pieces can cut even years later.
The novel is split into two narratives. Mira is an 11-year-old girl whose home life is beginning to unravel just as she enters the elite schools filled with aspiring ballerinas. It’s the late 1970s and her mother and father had just split; nothing seems to be going right. Mira is preoccupied with not being a good enough daughter or dancer. She wants to find something or someone to grasp on to. A man named Maurice because her gravitational pull.
The relationship is detailed over the next three years as she rises to one of the best young dancers in New York City. Maurice, middle-aged and obsessed with the ballet, is everything you’d expect him to be: haunted, shadowy, off-kilter. The two’s lives play out how you expect it to. It’s fairly obvious where the novel has to go.
That’s because the other narrative is about a dance history professor named Kate Randell. She’s middle aged now, lost and confused, and haunted by her past. Two unfortunate and noteworthy events happen in close succession, catapulting her to confront her past.
Girl Through Glass is beautifully terse. Wilson wistfully describes dance life. It’s a beautiful world, but she doesn’t hide the ugliness within it. The two worlds unravel as sacrifices become clear. The novel jumps back and forth eloquently and the pace moves quickly without losing any heart.
Though it is only Wilson’s first novel, she has quite the technique for building tension. Scenes are intentionally sparse to allow the reader’s mind to wander. There aren’t limits to how Maurice begins to engulf Mira’s crumbling world. Instead, it could be depicted any number of ways. The same for Kate’s life and why her decisions are both within character as well as wildly uncharacteristic. Upon finishing the novel, you’ll understand and feel everything Wilson intended, but there are certain scenes I would have loved for her to show us with that gorgeous prose she weaved together.