The Uncertain Places

The Uncertain Places

4.0 3
by Lisa Goldstein

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2012 Mythopoeic Award Winner

In this long-awaited new novel from American Book Award winner Lisa Goldstein, an ages-old family secret breaches the boundaries between reality and magic, revealing the places between them.

When Berkeley student Will Taylor is introduced by his best friend, Ben, to the mysterious Feierabend sisters, Will quickly


2012 Mythopoeic Award Winner

In this long-awaited new novel from American Book Award winner Lisa Goldstein, an ages-old family secret breaches the boundaries between reality and magic, revealing the places between them.

When Berkeley student Will Taylor is introduced by his best friend, Ben, to the mysterious Feierabend sisters, Will quickly falls for enigmatic Livvy, a chemistry major and accomplished chef. But Livvy’s family—vivacious actress Maddie, family historian Rose, and their mother, absent-minded Sylvia—are behaving strangely. The Feierabend women believe that luck is their handmaiden, and so it is, almost as though they are living in a fairy tale.

But the price for such gifts is extremely high. Will and Ben will unravel the riddle of a supernatural bargain, hoping to save Livvy from what appears to be an inescapable fate.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Goldstein (The Red Magician) plays around with forgotten fairy tales in this decades-spanning mixture of romance and fantasy. In 1971, Berkeley sophomore Will Taylor falls hard for Livvy Feierabend, though there's something strange about the laissez-faire, eccentric Feierabend family, whose members apparently lead charmed, prosperous lives. When Livvy falls into an enchanted sleep, Will discovers that a German folktale ties the Feierabends' success to sacrifice. To awaken Livvy, Will must outfox the fairy folk, a slow-burning process that takes nearly 20 years. This leisurely, lyrical tale owes much to old school mythic fictionists like Charles de Lint and Terri Windling. The fictional folktale of the Bondmaid feels utterly authentic, but the novel's pacing is off, and there's just too much crammed into a relatively short book. This mostly satisfying story could have been even better with more room to play. (June)
From the Publisher

“An exquisitely beautiful, eerily compelling modern fairy tale.”
Library Journal, starred review

“Exemplary.... Goldstein is one of fantasy’s most reliable practitioners, and a new novel from her is always a cause for celebration.”
San Francisco Chronicle

The Uncertain Places continued to surprise me at every page and, as a writer, filled me with raw, disgraceful envy: Boy I wish I’d thought of this one....”
—Peter S. Beagle, author of A Fine & Private Place and Sleight of Hand

“Lisa Goldstein is back and at the top of her game.”
Shelf Awareness

“The arrival of a new Goldstein fantasy is a major cause for rejoicing. And The Uncertain Places does not disappoint.”

“Has it really been nine years since The Alchemist’s Door, Lisa Goldstein’s last book under her own byline? It’s been a long wait, but The Uncertain Places is one of those delightful books that are worth the wait. It combines all the things that I like best about Goldstein’s work: great, believable characters; a well-defined setting (this time it’s 1970s Berkeley); and subtle magic that plays by the rules.”
—Charles de Lint, Fantasy & Science Fiction

"It’s an interesting question that Goldstein poses, and there is no easy answer to be found. What constitutes a ‘happy ever after’ for one person may bring misery to another. Perhaps the stories of one continent cannot survive transplantation to another without being somehow changed in the process. No matter how carefully hidden away they might be, sooner or later, as the territory is charted, they’re brought into the light of day. It’s what happens then that Goldstein has so intriguingly explored in this deeply absorbing novel."
Paper Knife

“Goldstein’s complex and ingenious plot transplants the forest realm of European folktale, where witches grant wishes with strings attached and you’d better be careful which frog you kiss, into the sun-drenched hills of Northern California in the 1970s— and beyond.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin

“This entrancing book perfectly captures the subconscious logic of fairy tales—you’ll find yourself believing it all and wishing you could go to these places yourself, with all their wonders and perils.”
—Tim Powers, author of The Stress of Her Regard and The Bible Repairman and Other Stories

“It’s fitting that a spider is the symbol of the elf-struck family in this book, because Lisa Goldstein’s prose is more than a little like a spider’s web: so deceptively simple that you could take it for granted until the angle of light changes and its full beauty is suddenly revealed...a tale as tangling, tricksy, and enchanted as the Fair Folk themselves.”
—Tad Williams, author of Tailchaser’s Song

“From Lisa Goldstein, one of our most subtle and enduring writers, comes this exquisite interweaving of fairy tale and modern life. The Uncertain Places demonstrates that love and the stuff of legends are sometimes indistinguishable and share the same dark bed.”
—Lucius Shepard

“A gripping story that twists with compelling dream logic; Goldstein’s fairy-tale family radiate believable unreality, and the faerie realm contained herein evinces the perfect mix of terror and attraction. Start reading this at your peril; once I did, I couldn’t stop until I was done.”
—Cory Doctorow, author of Content and Context

“Goldstein fearlessly rubs the dreamlike logic of fairy tales up against stark realism, and each one makes the other more real.”

“It’s an engaging look at Northern California in the ’70s by way of the Brothers Grimm...a shrewd and satisfying venture down the crooked paths and unpredictable byways of the Otherworld.”
—Patricia A. McKillip, author of Wonders of the Invisible World

“It’s all about family values: ancient legacies, young love, dumb luck, and home cooking. And no one understands better than Lisa Goldstein that terror is a dish best served cold.”
—Terry Bisson, author of Greetings and Other Stories and Number Don’t Lie

“Warning: This book contains graphic scenes of nonconsensual housekeeping.”
The Juggler

“Goldstein is in fine form with a darkly compelling modern fairy tale.”
January Magazine

"Lisa Goldstein is the perfect, born storyteller."
—Diana Wynne Jones

Library Journal
Accompanying his roommate Ben to the home of Ben's girlfriend, Maddie, Berkeley student Will Taylor falls in love with the Feierabend women. When Will begins dating Livvy, the middle sister, he believes he has found the direction of his life. One morning, however, Livvy fails to wake up, and Will discovers the secret pact at the heart of the family's apparent streak of good luck, a secret with its roots in the forgotten fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. The author of The Red Magician and The Alchemist's Door has written an exquisitely beautiful, eerily compelling modern fairy tale. VERDICT Graceful storytelling and a knack for making the fantastic all-too-believable make Goldstein's latest novel a treat for fantasy lovers and folk/fairy tale enthusiasts alike.

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Tachyon Publications
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Meet the Author

Lisa Goldstein has published nine novels and two short-story collections, including Dark Cities Underground, The Alchemist’s Door, and Travellers in Magic. Her novel, The Red Magician, won the American Book Award, and she has been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. She has published dozens of short stories in such magazines as Interzone and Asimov’s Science Fiction, and in anthologies, including The Norton Book of Science Fiction and The Year’s Best Fantasy. Goldstein has published two fantasy novels under the name Isabel Glass and is a founding member of the women’s speculative fiction co-operative the Brazen Hussies.

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The Uncertain Places 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
DeborahJRoss More than 1 year ago
This is contemporary fantasy of the sort that revolves around the intersection of the ordinary world and Faerie. That in itself is pretty ho-hum. It's all too easy to create fae/fairies/elves who are humans with pointy ears and magical powers. Very pretty humans, but still humans. That said, Goldstein is no ordinary writer, so her treatment is subtle and edgy. Her fae are not nice people at all, and sane people truly do not want to have dealings with them. She tumbles us into the story as a college student, Will, falls in love with Livvy, an enigmatic chemistry major and brilliant chef. Through Will's eyes and the lens of 1970s Berkeley, we get to know Livvy's family, a family of extraordinary women, a family that is still in thrall to a bargain made centuries ago by their ancestor. In every generation, a child is put to sleep for seven years, during which time his or her spirit fights in eternal battle, in exchange for which, the family enjoys extraordinary good luck. No one has ever been able to get free of the cycle. I think that's the true menace of Faerie -- that once a bargain is struck, even if it wasn't by you, there's no outwitting or tricking or appealing to compassion. And the reward -- what you get from the bargain -- is as addictive as heroin. But Will's essential decency, not to mention his devotion to Livvy, won't let him walk away. We experience the journey through his eyes as he delves progressively deeper into the world only hinted at in the darkest fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm were hiding something . . . for good reason. It's a complex, absorbing, beautifully written tale that stands head and shoulders above the rest of its kind.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1971 while attending Berkeley, Ben Avery introduces his roommate sophomore Will Taylor to the Feierabend sisters (Maddie the actress, Livvy the chemistry major and Rose the family historian). While Ben dates Maddie, Will falls in love with Livvy. However, Will finds Livvy's affluent and seemingly fortunate family of all females odd. He especially does not understand the reactions of her two sisters and their mother Sylvia when Livvy falls into a coma like deep sleep as if they knew this was her destiny. Will soon learns his beloved is under an enchantment spell that goes back generations to when the family made deal with the Beyond as written in a censored Grimm Brothers fairy tale The Bondsmaid. Desperate to awaken his sleeping beauty, Will searches for a way to circumvent the deal with no help from her family while the fairy perpetrators keep him off kilter though he vows to keep trying whether it takes two decades or his lifetime. The key to this super fairy tale is the cast who make the legend of the Bondsmaid seem real. Will is a wonderful Prince Charming hero though his DNA would say otherwise and the three siblings are similar in the sense they all contain a special glamour but also are radically different in personality. The efforts of Will (with Ben as his sidekick) to awaken his Sleeping Beauty has so much occurring in the 1970s and 1980s that it could have been expanded into two romantic urban fantasies; as readers will relish as we root for the hero in his odyssey into The Uncertain Places of love. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago