Sculptor Amy Freeman wakes one ordinary morning to find her 14-year-old son Zach gone, the only evidence of him a stray flake floating in the milky water of his cereal bowl. Seven years later, in the same California town, a middle-school science teacher (referred to by everyone except his girlfriend Roxana as "Mr. Candine") suddenly finds God. His revelation sets him on a collision course with a troubled student looking to exorcise his own demons--and lands Mr. Candine in the middle of a lawsuit.
Bracketed by two cataclysmic events, Dance of Souls weaves together the stories of Amy, Zach, Mr. Candine, and Roxana with those of a school principal, a troubled student, and a documentary filmmaker. Amy's blossoming career leads her to New York; Zach searches for the woman who enticed him to run away from home at 14; Mr. Candine wrestles with God and the law; and Roxana wrestles with Mr. Candine.
Careening between the serious and the lighthearted, the divine and the secular, the novel looks at the longing we all share to find meaning in our lives, the countless ways we search for it, and what happens in the aftermath of those personal cataclysms that either change us forever or barely disturb the surface of our oblivion.
Audrey Kalman writes literary fiction with a dark edge, often about what goes awry when human connection is missing from our lives. She is the author of two novels, What Remains Unsaid and Dance of Souls. Her collection of short fiction, Tiny Shoes Dancing and Other Stories was published in 2018 and was shortlisted for the 2019 Rubery Book Award. Her latest publication is "The Last Storyteller," in release weekly on the Kindle Vella platform.
Many online and print journals have published her short fiction and poetry, including "Boundoff," "Every Day Fiction," "Fault Zone," "The Jewish Literary Journal," "Mash Stories," "Pithead Chapel," "Punchnels," "The Sand Hill Review," and "Sixfold." She edited two editions of the "Fault Zone" anthology of California writers (Fault Zone Shift and Fault Zone Diverge).
She lives in northern California and is at work on two more novels. Find out more at www.audreykalman.com.
Kalman's Dance of Souls is a terrific work of literary fiction. I savored her writing style. The elegant prose and the beautifully structured sentences led me onward. She employs inner monologue and changing point of view to make sure a well-rounded world takes shape on the page. Kalman weaves together several lives in such an unexpected way. From the beginning, you feel the underlying tension and sense that the characters are careening towards each other. The ending was completely satisfying and I am in awe of how intricately everything came together.
You know you are in the hands of a master craftswoman as you read this book!
This was beautifully written. The characters were absorbing and the writing style was elegant. I found the ending rather unresolved and there were some editing issues toward the end of the book, hence four stars instead of five. But I'm entirely prepared to admit that my dissatisfaction with the ending may be due to my lack of sophistication as a reader (I generally don't read much literary fiction). Regardless of my quibbles, this book is worth reading just for the joy of the prose.
This is a literary novel. Is full of disfunctional people. Begins with Amy and her son Zach at age 14 running away. Add other characters who intersect with these two and you have a complex read of folks in need of help. Is beautifully written and has a surprise ending that did not appeal to yours truly. Thanks to Goodreads.
Honestly I could not put this book down. The story line was easy to visualize and follow which is really good. I think anyone who enjoys reading current events and follows the news would love this book and go with a 5 star rating. What kept me reading though was the hook that was mentioned several times in the book that made you want to find out what the big event was that everyone was mentioning. You don't get the answer till the very last handful of words in the book. The thing is that you do need to read the whole book to understand the ending. I am not disappointed in this book as I said it really is a lead up to an ending. It is not something I normally read so it really was just not my thing so much.
The author has great skill with words, letting us feel both the mundane and sublime that occur every day. The plot involves many characters, but we don't see many relationships until near the end. It was enjoyable just reading some of the descriptions, but in the end, the lack of ability to really communicate between characters scatters some of the effect.
Audrey Kalman’s novel, Dance of Souls, is a treasury of character development in just 195 beautifully-styled pages. On all levels – language, character, and story – Kalman is a mature and accomplished writer, who know how to dig deep and get into the psyche’s of the most bizarre characters – but also those more prosaic souls who we can relate to as if they were the family next door. Sculptor and divorced mom, Amy Freeman, creates huge, challenging, religiously-themed public art while wrestling with her relationship with her restive teenaged son, Zach, and her own demons. When policeman Greg Marshall brings Zach back to her after his runaway and a tragic fire, there is already a spark for bachelor Greg. Years later, they reconnect and Kalman picks up the story there. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Mr. Candine, a popular middle school science teacher, a lone wolf with an anal retentive streak, finds Jesus in the buxom form of churchgoing Roxanna. He romances her over their mutual disgust with the public display of atheist Amy’s artwork. When Mr. Candine’s life goes from bad to worse, and lonely to desolate, his anger and angst refocus on the artist - the “idiot” and evil blasphemer. A third clutch of characters – the media team filming a documentary about Amy – draws us in with their fine lines between sinning and human foibles. There is MUCH more here that I don’t want to give away. The main thing about Dance of Souls is that the themes and plot are wholly contemporary, and therefore not wholly original - but the way Kalman skillfully and shrewdly weaves the impulses, talents, backgrounds, values, compulsions and passions of her characters into a familiar scene is gripping in a new way. Perhaps because I am actively Jewish and my husband a progressive rabbi, I picked up on a major theme of this novel – the role religious belief plays in the lives of all kinds of people, with all kinds of beliefs and values, or the lack thereof. Kalman left me wondering about my own beliefs and the subtle ways they move me to speak, relate, keep silent – and especially, to act. Two places early on, I would have liked to be privy to the “scene.” When Kyle, a spoiled and smart-ass teen, accuses Mr. Candine and gets him fired, it is described in the narration as “Janitor’s closet. Ruler. God’s wrath.” That’s it. We never know exactly what did happen. We do find out that Kyle’s fabrication contained a modicum of truth – a science teacher who gathers a cadre of vulnerable high school students to give them God’s word about Intelligent Design, aka Creationism. And most wonderfully, we find out lots more about Kyle. Kalman also cuts us off at several other important junctures. For instance, when Amy discusses the night of the fire with her now adult son Zach, we never hear exactly what he tells her. Frustrating! In my preliminary review of this book, I said of this tendency to skirt the hard scenes, “Maybe she has a reason.” By the end of the book, I’m enjoying this stylistic choice as an embedded reflection of another important theme: the inability of people who care deeply about one another to communicate. Amy and Zach, then Amy and Greg. Mr. Candine and Roxanna, Roxanna with her mother, Mr. Candine with Kyle and his principal. And the media team, which brings in presumably bright, sophisticated characters with major communications problems within families and work teams. By the end of the book, it’s easy to see how Kalman leaves these conversations to our imagination – and leaves her characters imagining the minds of others in a way that more often than not unleashes havoc. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a terrific, easy read that will leave you feeling introspective.
This novel starts with the story of Amy, a sculptor and Zach, a student; a mother and son introduced to us just as the son is running away from home. Throughout the book we are introduced to a public school science teacher whose finding of God causes drastic changes to his previously monotonous life; a documentary film maker and his assistant; a police officer; a Muslim woman; a school principal, a spoiled rich kid; and several others. All of these characters at first appear to have lives that have no connection to each other, but as their storylines unfold all of their lives begin to weave together. With characters of all ages and backgrounds, storylines running from the mundane to the curious and exciting, I think just about anyone could find something in this novel to touch them in some way.
It was, however, painfully obvious to me from the very first page that this is a self-published novel. I literally lost count of all the typographical errors, grammar blunders, punctuation problems, missing words, and over-complicated, incorrectly structured sentences that riddled this novel. All of these are issues that even a novice editor would have noticed and marked for correction prior to publication, and I couldn’t help but think that surely the author must have known someone with a love for the written word and a little remembrance of high school English class that could have reviewed this novel for her prior to submitting it to the public.
As if the editorial issues didn’t make this book hard enough to read, the author had a habit of moving back and forth in time in a manner that I found to be somewhat confusing and definitely annoying. In addition, her attempts at foreshadowing were extremely blatant and often stated outright exactly what would happen several chapters later. Quite a few of the many main characters in this novel were poorly defined leaving the reader confused about their actions and reactions. The storylines, while basically very good, often lacked definition, and were not brought to enough of a close at the end of the novel for my comfort.
All of these issues made the book a little more difficult to read than it truly needed to be.
I have, since finishing this book, discovered that this was the author’s first published work. I think this novel could be an extremely good read and would be a great sell if it were a little “cleaner”. It was obvious that the author has a fantastic imagination and is actually quite a skilled writer; what she desperately needs is an editor to help work out some of the kinks.
In Audrey Kalman’s debut novel, “Dance of Souls” is a modern sculpture created by one of the book’s many well-drawn characters, a woman whose son barely survives a horrific house fire. We soon realize that the book's title actually refers to the maneuverings and gyrations—intentional and otherwise—of the book’s inhabitants as they dance through the mysteries of life. So what might initially appear to be a well-written (extremely well-written!) collection of intertwined short-stories is a much richer creation.
The novel opens with Amy, the sculptor, and her teenage son, Zach, and the fire that separates the two of them both emotionally and physically. Then we are introduced to Mr. Candine, an odd teacher at Zach’s school who finds God and just can’t keep it to himself. He pays the price in politically-correct Northern California and the reader is sympathetic. Then Mr. Candine alienates the woman who loves him. Then he wins us back when he adopts a dog for purely mercenary purposes but ends up bonding with the animal. But there is still something not right about him. And there is. Such are the nuances of the characters in this novel.
Other distinctive souls enter the dance (perhaps one too many, but that’s really a minor quibble.) The effects that they have on each other are often more tangled than first realized.
I found myself re-reading sections of the book just to savor the deft, elegant prose. Kalman uses inner monologue and rotating viewpoint particularly well, delivering succinct passages that sum up a character’s state in relatively few words:
“Amy knew the moment she walked into the house that he was gone. Not gone as he usually was, at school, away for the day, maybe returning late in the evening smelling suspiciously of cigarettes, but gone as Phil had been gone after he walked out.”
The novel delivers a punch at the end. It is memorable, skillfully pulling together the threads of a mystery that have haunted Amy, Zach and other inhabitants of Dance of Souls.
Audrey is a good writer and has chosen a very challenging and intriguing topic. There are several subplots and themes that keep us turning the page. The big question remains unanswered however, which may or may not be intentional. All in all "Dance of Souls" keeps us reading and gets us to think - which is what it's all about.
I really liked the characters in this book and the way each of their stories unfolded and came together. I was a little disappointed in the way it ended after all the build up. I was expecting more of an impact as all the stories finally merged.
It was still a good story, though. Thoughtful, emotional, and well-written family and relationship drama.
What a beautifully written book. The reader is intimately introduced to a number of characters whose lives intersect at various points throughout the novel, culminating in a page-turning climax. The reader constantly asks, "What's next?" Ms. Kalman is a talented writer, and I am amicably envious of her ability to string such lovely sentences together.