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Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack

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“How the characters in this story are interconnected is a marvel of storytelling.” — JOHN IRVING

Fate, circumstance, and the symbolism of sight collide in this modern gothic novel.

On a hot June day in 1965, two six-year-old boys, Gareth and Jack, compete to see who can climb higher up a tree. When Jack falls and loses his eye on a thorn bush, the accident sets off a series of events that will bind the boys together for the rest of their lives.

When the best friends meet albino twins Clara and Blanca, a shared fate unfolds. With Gareth and Jack’s help, the twins are able to reclaim their lives and leave their nightmarish past behind them.

From the shores of Lake Ontario to the hustle of Berlin, from the art of oculary to punk opera, this is a story of dark secrets, suppressed desires, forgiveness, and love.

304 pages, Paperback

First published February 9, 2021

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About the author

Heidi von Palleske

4 books54 followers
Heidi von Palleske is an actor and an activist as well as a writer. As a film actor she is best known for her work in the Feminist Western, Bordello, and her breakout movie Dead Ringers.

Her favourite authors include: Robertson Davies, Milan Kundera, Jane Urquhart, John Irving, Michael Ondaatje, Peter Susskind and Lauren B. Davis.

Heidi continues to balance both careers as a writer and as an actor.



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5 stars
74 (43%)
4 stars
49 (28%)
3 stars
29 (17%)
2 stars
15 (8%)
1 star
3 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 100 reviews
Profile Image for Carolyn Walsh .
1,445 reviews575 followers
June 21, 2020
Thank you, NetGalley and Dundurn Press for this captivating character-driven novel with touches of magic-realism, romance, and a gothic flair. This was a well-crafted novel with a poetic narrative blended with some exquisite prose. Themes include dark family secrets, tragedy, guilt, and resilience, along with art and music.

It deals with physical vision and also the importance of insight. Fate is two-sided and consists of the good and the bad. To get through life one must accept both. A major focus is the ability to reinvent oneself. The profession or lifestyle a person achieves through dedication and hard work may not be the one life or fate chooses for them.

The setting moves back and forth from the shores of Lake Ontario in the 1960s and later to Germany over the decades, and finally in 1989 to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The characters are unique and memorable, although rather bizarre. They are so well-written that the reader can connect to them on an emotional level. The books’ title is very clever.

Two five-year-old boys are playing at climbing trees. Gareth urges his friend, Johnny to go higher and Johnny falls. This results in a severe eye injury. Gareth blames himself and is horrified when his friend’s eye must be removed. Johnny is fitted with a fake-looking plastic eye which becomes irritated and infected. He is very self-conscious. Gareth learns that his older brother, Tristan, has always been blind in one eye, but accepts it as he has never known anything different.

One day, Gareth accompanies his brother for an eye examination. While in the waiting room he is enthralled by the vision of albino twin girls, Bianca and Clara. With their long white hair and pink coloured eyes, he regards them as enchanting and magical. The girls are teased at school and consider themselves ugly. They live in a squalid upstairs apartment with a cranky, unstable grandfather who reinforces the idea that they are repulsive and freakish. There is also an evil uncle. The girls find a pleasant escape from their unfortunate living conditions, verbal abuse, and lack of nutritious food by visiting a neat downstairs apartment. Esther, a Jewish refugee from wartime Germany teaches them manners and fosters their love of music. Their mother is absent in their lives. She is in psychiatric care, living in a lakeside cottage while receiving electric-shock treatment for depression.

Johnny’s mother is in an unhappy marriage. Her husband has become distant while she devoted her attention to Johnny’s eye infections. She remembers a childhood friend in Germany. Siegfried has become renowned as a leading ocularist, a talented craftsman of glass eyes. She brings Johnny to Germany where he receives a much more realistic artificial glass eye, He is now rid of the troublesome and disfiguring infections. Gareths’ and Johnnys’ lives intersect with the girls whom they regard as beautiful.

As Johnny grows towards manhood, he and his mother travel to Germany every two years to be fitted for new eyes. He is now known as Jack and studies to become a photographer. Clara and Bianca are favourite subjects of his fashion portfolio. The girls are now making tentative steps as punk/opera musicians. Gareth’s talent is painting, and the girls are part of the subject for his largest work of art. He is discouraged from studying at a university level because his less talented teacher hates his slow, methodical pace and also his series of brilliant miniatures he created. She is unlikely to recommend him for higher study. What fate has in store for all these characters is unexpected. Will they find success and hapiness in the future?
Profile Image for Matt.
3,673 reviews12.8k followers
February 12, 2021
As this book was marked as unfinished, it will not garner a star rating, out of respect for all involved.

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Heidi von Palleske, and Dundurn Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Eager to sink my teeth into this book, especially after giving the dust jacket blurb a glance, I found myself greatly confused. Heidi von Palleske lays out in her introduction how she had chosen a number of important events and people in her life and crammed them into this story. While that may sound good, using ‘what you know’, it did not work for me. I tried a few times to connect with the characters and the story, but failed to do so.

Others may find something that compels them within these pages, but I could not. I chose to take the high road and let others bask in the story, reviewing it as they wanted. I tried and it did not work for me, so I left it after twice making it close to a third of the way through the piece. I hope to return to it down the road, but for now, I will slide it back onto the shelf.

Kudos, Madam von Palleske, for writing what you know. I just ended up not being someone who could follow the path you laid out before you.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Apoorva.
190 reviews171 followers
December 14, 2020
Firstly, I want to acknowledge NetGalley, Author Heidi von Palleske and Publisher Dundurn Press for the ARC of the novel.

The narrative of the book is entirely unique and engaging. Never had I discovered such a scenario where the stories of four children are so mingled with each other. The story is wonderfully crafted and has a lyrical narrative that provides the total reading experience a distinct joy altogether. I thought the whole novel was directed by the actors rather than the actual tale itself. Deep buried mysteries are always life-changing.

I believe the writer could produce a little better when it came to jumping the ages. I got a tiny bit confused and had to re-read to get a more solid grip on it. The author attempts to pinpoint the value of self-esteem, self-development, and self-appreciation. Giving up everything for the children and loved ones, in the long run, may simply make one lament in lonely moments. It's an absolute must-read for an extraordinary experience.
Profile Image for J  (Midnight Book Blog).
146 reviews543 followers
July 7, 2020
That was definitely a wild ride, full RTC!
(review will be posted within a month of publication date, ARC courtesy of NetGalley)
Profile Image for Jerrie.
985 reviews127 followers
March 13, 2021
This book had a really interesting premise, but I often felt like the characters just weren’t fleshed out sufficiently. The scope of the story and the themes were good, but the people and dialog often just weren’t convincing enough. I liked it, but didn’t love it.
Profile Image for Story.
856 reviews4 followers
August 3, 2021
I absolutely loved this novel with its gorgeous prose, strange and vibrant characters, mythic/fairy-tale sensibility and gritty Gothic undertones. The author transported me into her fey and magical world and I didn't want the story to end.

Highly recommended for readers who enjoys authors such as such as Heather O'Neil, Karen Russell and Amy Bloom who create larger-than-life characters and story worlds.
Profile Image for CYIReadBooks (Claire).
565 reviews84 followers
February 14, 2021
I can't believe I finished Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack. I was intrigued with the book's description and the plot seemed interesting. But after reading the first few chapters, I just knew I was in for a struggle. For one, the transitions in points of view were choppy in my opinion. I got lost a few times and had to backtrack to regain my bearings. The next item of contention is the transition in time periods. At one point, the characters are mere children, the next moment, they are teenagers. A decade went by, just like that.

I'm sure that I'm of the minority of opinion. But I will say that to those readers that enjoyed Circe (I didn't.) Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack is probably a novel you will enjoy.

Two stars. It was okay if I managed to finish it.

I received a digital ARC from Dundurn Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
Profile Image for Lolly K Dandeneau.
1,836 reviews230 followers
May 12, 2020
via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/
𝑰𝒕 𝒎𝒂𝒚 𝒃𝒆 𝒂 𝒓𝒆𝒑𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒆𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕, 𝒃𝒖𝒕, 𝒕𝒐 𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒃𝒐𝒅𝒚, 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒆𝒚𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒂𝒏 𝒊𝒏𝒗𝒂𝒔𝒊𝒗𝒆 𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒊𝒆𝒔, 𝒘𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒐𝒄 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒑𝒉𝒚𝒔𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒍 𝒆𝒄𝒐𝒔𝒚𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒎.

Heidi von Palleske’s novel left me thinking about fate, the word has a tendency to conjure happy circumstances for people who forget that fate is a two sided coin, you get the bad with the good. The characters living on these pages lose their eye, their mother, their innocence, and sometimes their very sanity. Gareth is witness to his friend Johnny’s unlucky turn on their tree climbing adventure as he plummets to the ground, costing him an eye. An accident that reveals his own older brother Tristan has a bad eye himself. So begins the importance of vision, be it insight or physical boundaries. For Gareth, there is untold horror in learning his friend’s eye ‘had to come out’. It is a peculiar thing to stare at the unnatural replacement sitting in his socket “with something that seemed to have a drawing of an eye on it.” Unnatural, creepy.

Accompanying his brother Tristan to his appointments for his defective eye, Gareth encounters twin girls. These are no ordinary twins, Blanca and Clara speak their own secret language and are the color of snow, their own eyes pink with snowy lashes- he is enthralled. They are incredible, magical, like something out of a fairy-tale! The twins don’t feel magical, living with the crusty grandfather, separated from their mother who lives on the shore of Lake Ontario in a yellow cottage. A strange, broken woman, their mother, whose past is as much a mystery to them as their own origins.

Johnny’s mother Hilda (a German immigrant) struggles with the loss of her son’s eye, wondering if the old ways of her German roots could have protected him, but sure they have no power in Canada. Thinking about her past, longing for who she was and embracing memories of a boy (Siegfried) she once knew, she remembers his special gift, giving birth to an idea. This friend from her past could well be salvation for her son, a last hope for normalcy in hiding the deformity of a missing eye. So begins trips to the country and people she left behind and a fascinating history of eye making. Hilda and Siegfried’s story is as captivating as every character’s in this Gothic tale that takes place in the 1960’s and 1980’s, “between the shores of Lake Ontario and Berlin”.

The secrets surrounding Blanca and Clara’s mother Faye is shameful, devastating- a stain on the family the girls very presence reminds their mean grandfather of. Through a turn of luck, the twins are given a dream to strive for under the mentoring of a kind woman who lives downstairs. If Johnny’s future is changed through his mother’s friend in Germany, it is Esther who opens the world for the twins. Both Gareth and Johnny’s lives are weaved into Blanca and Clara’s, through tragic circumstances, hunger, desire and love. Art, music, dark family secrets, and second chances proving we’re never too old to find happiness. It is a tale about what we leave behind and how we reinvent ourselves, it is escape and acceptance both. This was a gorgeous novel about being an immigrant trying to fit into a new way of life as much as being an outsider from birth in your own land through the twins experiences. I loved it, it was such a unique tale with the flavoring of myths, it took me back to tempestuous classics I feverishly read when I was a teenager. This isn’t coming out until March 2021 but well worth the wait! I will snatch up any future books Heidi von Palleske writes!

Publication Date: March 2, 2021

Profile Image for Allie Marini.
Author 41 books53 followers
August 6, 2020
Thank you to NetGalley & the publishing house, who provided a free copy of this book for a fair & honest review. *

OK, so as noted by several of the lower-star reviewers — this book is not for everyone, AND THAT IS OKAY. Here’s my response to the most frequent criticisms I saw in the other reviews:

“Vulgarity.” — Life is vulgar, & people swear. Also, fuck off. 🤭

CW — there is a rape scene, & it is graphic. HOWEVER. There is a HUGE difference between a rape scene written by a female-identified writer to demonstrate a moment of brutality *upon which the entirety of the novel hinges* and a rape scene written by a male author to titillate. Every reader has a different threshold. The scene is less than a page long. It’s at location 959 (about 25% in) if you need to skip it.

“Wraps up too neatly” — Take it up with Sophocles; this is basically a modernized version of Antigone, which is why is has a fairy-tale feel to it.


That said, I’m *exactly* who this book was written for, so if you’re like me... you’ll be into it.
I will also note that I’m into Classics & mythology & German Literature. I love the Dresden Dolls, gothic novels, Repo the Genetic Opera, & dark Cabaret. So if you nerd out on those things, there’s a lot of Easter eggs in there for you. I mean, you’ve got characters named Siegfried & Tristan & Hilda. So the Hero’s Quest is in there, too.

I tore through this book (seemed pretty substantial, not sure of the page count, but seemed pretty dense) in about 3-4 days. There are a lot of characters, but it never felt (to me, anyway) cluttered. It honestly reminded me a lot of John Irving’s work (and I mean that as a compliment) — what with Germans & a strange specific profession (the ocularist) & a lot of thematic content about destiny.

It’s been a long time since a book made me cry at the end, but the last 10 pages of this had me sobbing, which is probably another reason it reminds me of John Irving — that ability to come full circle & just lay you out completely with a few lines. The Epilogue brought goosebumps to my skin.

This book is lush & poetic & pays careful attention to how language works. The author also has a real ear for dialogue, particularly with the characters Hilda & Siegfried. My suspicion is the author is 2nd generation German & based their speech patterns on real people, because there are some idioms & speech patterns that Germans speaking English have & the author nailed it. I could hear these characters loud & clear.

Also, now I want the band Bleach to be real. I want to hear music that exists in a fictional novel.

I closed the last page of this book feeling like the characters were people I knew, people I want to be happy and live well. They all have a distinctive personality, & I love how deftly the author stitches their stories together. She really has an artful way of showing how one moment is all it takes to alter the direction of a life — how fate & destiny operate in the details, not necessarily the big, defining moments of life. Or rather — the climactic moments are made possible by a series of small, seemingly insignificant choices.

I look forward to reading more books by this author, & as a writer myself, this is exactly the kind of book I want to create one day. I will definitely purchase this in print, I can think of many friends who would love it, & I will definitely read it again.

If you like German lit, classical mythology, John Irving, dark cabaret, Dresden Dolls, Katzenjammer, Sturm und Drang, Repo the Genetic Opera, My Sweet Audrina (VC Andrews), gothic stories, Antigone, or Hedwig & the Angry Inch, odds are you’ll like this book. I hope that this review helps it find its ideal readers. If this describes you — you’ll love it.
Profile Image for Lisa Konet.
1,977 reviews10 followers
August 12, 2020
This was a more unique and different kind of read and I understand it may not be for everyone. There is 1 rape scene but it is less than a page long. It was to show something terrible happened and the book does not drag this incident on. This book is a mix of mythology, fantasy and gothic lore unlike Mexican Gothic that was truly a mess and overrated (JMO). Overall, I really liked this book and will re-read it in the future.

A friend (gareth) witnesses his friend climbing a tree and falling(Jack) and loses his vision in one eye. At a doctor's office, Jacks's older brother and Gareth accompany him to get his eye removed. It is Gareth who spots the beautiful white skin sisters, Clara and Blanca. He becomes obsessed with them. The rest of the story follows all these characters into adulthood and all the aches and pains that come with it. Can they all make peace with their own pasts? Can they accept themselves at last? Read the book to find out.

Highly recommended and this is not my usual kind of read.

Thanks to Netgalley, Heidi von Palleske, and Dundum Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Available: 3/2/21
1 review2 followers
February 21, 2021
A pure joy from start to finish. Even more resonant than the masterfully – and I do mean masterfully -- executed story is the deep love and compassion the author has for her fascinating and unique characters, lost and damaged and struggling as they are. These are some oddballs and eccentrics you’ve never encountered before and yet she connects you with them intimately. Their search for connection or redemption or purpose is made viscerally ours, and novels simply don’t get any better than that. It’s all tied together with her beautiful prose, incisive humour, evocative imagery, and remarkable gift for making the political personal. A stunning achievement and an absolute must read.
Profile Image for Lauren Davis.
Author 9 books230 followers
October 17, 2020
Read the book. This novel weaves worlds together. It is not only full of sensual imagery and pinpoint details, but it is brave, and bold and necessary.

Profile Image for Vanessa.
486 reviews23 followers
July 9, 2020
This book caught my eye because of the title. This book is just completely stunning. It's also pretty raw at times, which I liked a lot. It's all about the choices that people make and the consequences of their actions. It all begins when Johnny (Jack) falls from a tree and loses an eye. Gareth meets albino twins, Clara and Blanca, at the eye doctor and instantly becomes obsessed (infatuated) with them. The story develops as they all move toward adulthood, learning to be themselves and accepting the past. I don't want to ruin this for anyone by giving away spoilers. I just highly recommend this.

I received and ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.
Currently the publication date is listed as February 2021.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 6 books26 followers
June 27, 2020
Really intriguing premise with fascinating characters. I'm glad I read the introduction by the author because she's intentionally wrapping together a number of themes and plot points for very specific reasons. Thankfully, for me at least, all of these elements gelled together cohesively and added up to a memorable story that will stay with me for some time.

This book plays around with the idea of fate and destiny--that things both work out how they "should" but not necessarily the way we want them to work out. The result is the endings for all of the characters in this book felt tidy and "right," but weren't necessarily "happily ever after" Hollywood endings. I dug that idea because it mirrors what real life is like. While fate and destiny are the book's central themes, the real backbone of the story is art, and how all of these characters use their artistry to find their way forward and explore their destiny.

The thing I liked best about the book were the characters. There are a number of them, and (with the exception of Tristan, whose perspective seemed underwritten) they all are fully fleshed out and have wholly original stories and journeys you're not apt to see portrayed in other books.

The think I liked least was the formatting of the story. Often the story changes character perspectives mid chapter or even mid page. Every time this happened, it took me out of the story and forced me to stop and clarify where I was in place and time. Every. Single. Time. I'm not sure if the lack of clarity was due to me reading the book in galley form (maybe there will be line breaks, etc to signify these transitions in its final form?) I just know that it was an artistic choice that I found annoying and disruptive.

Thanks to the author and NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for River Bookshop.
17 reviews15 followers
July 14, 2021
This novel starts off with a tree-climbing accident that results in Johnny losing his eye...leaving him the One-Eyed Jack of the title. That one event sets off this beautifully written tale with characters who are flawed but with redeeming qualities letting the reader make connections between fate and destiny. Jack’s friend Gareth meets the albino sisters, Clara and Blanca as a result of Jack’s accident and their lives and those of their families are intertwined for decades through tragedy, pain and love. The characters in this book are amazingly developed and will stay with you for a long time.
1 review2 followers
February 21, 2021
This book is so unique and fascinating. Totally compelling characters that work their way into your mind, so that you feel you've known them all your life. The writing is beautiful; at times verging on poetic without ever being overbearing. The author draws you right in with her unusual and beautifully interwoven stories. You'll miss them all when it's done. Isn't that always the best?!
Profile Image for BookwormishMe.
320 reviews15 followers
January 4, 2021
This is a story about accidents and destiny. How accidental things happen in our lives that perhaps set a course for our future that was possibly predetermined. It has been described as a Gothic novel, but I didn’t find all that much Goth in it. I found a group of individuals whose lives were permanently intertwined by fate.

Jack and Gareth are best friends. They are typical boys roughhousing and outdoor creatures. Until the day that Gareth prods Jack to climb a tree just a bit higher. A bit too high, because Jack falls. The bushes that break his fall, also permanently damage his eye. Which is how he becomes the one-eyed Jack.

As a child, while visiting the optometrist with his older brother Tristan, Gareth spies twins in the waiting room that spark his imagination. They are albino, white hair, white skin, pink eyes like rabbits. He is fascinated by these unusual girls, and they occupy his thoughts for many years to come, even though he never encounters them again.

Gareth doesn’t really ever recover from the accident, believing that if he hadn’t prodded Jack, it wouldn’t have happened. He expresses his guilt in his art. Jack, is fitted with a prosthetic eye, but in America these eyes are made of acrylic, which irritates Jack’s eye socket. His mother, Hilda, remembers a young man who lived in her house when she was young. He was an ocularist, or a person who makes prosthetic eyes out of glass, each one a custom piece for the wearer. Hilda decides to take Jack back to Germany to find this ocularist.

Each of these actions and experiences changes each of the characters in one way or another. Their lives become even more connected and allow them to become the adults they were meant to be. The novel is beautifully written with lyrical prose and vivid descriptions. Not a quick read, but more one to be contemplated. It is a lovely novel.
Author 7 books238 followers
July 19, 2020
I want to thank NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the opportunity to read this book. The title and description piqued my interest regarding its literary gothic feel, a splash of unique characters, friendship and romance, along with the setting bouncing from Lake Ontario to Germany.

The story is about two friends, Gareth and Johnny, and their journey into adulthood. When young, Gareth goads Johnny into climbing higher up a tree, Johnny accepts the challenge and falls, losing his eye and becoming cautious and self-conscious. Johnny receives a glass eye from an old friend of his mother’s from Germany, Siegfried, the ocularist. This ultimately boosts his confidence to where he sheds his old self and becomes Jack. Gareth, a gifted artist, struggles with the guilt of Johnny’s partial loss of vision and figuring out where his place is in life.

Tristan, Gareth’s brother, is also blind in one eye. Gareth is with Tristan at one of his eye doctor’s appointments and meets Clara and Blanca, the twin albinos, which leaves a lasting impression on him. Several other characters weave their way into the story, connecting themes of isolation, coming of age, quest to find oneself, good vs. evil, deception, and inner and outer awareness.

I enjoyed all the different German words and traits incorporated into the story. Jack’s mother, Hilda, is of the old world thinking, taking care of house and children while creating an assortment of homemade dishes and kuchen (cakes). She struggles with a distant husband and life in Lake Ontario while trying to forget the life she had in Germany, but falls in love with her old friend, Siegfried. Although trying to run away from her past, he’s the bond to the old country, which reminds her of the things she misses.

Clara and Blanca have white skin and hair and pink eyes like bunnies. Their downstairs neighbor teaches them both manners and music to which they become successful operatic/punk singers. Gareth and Jack meet these girls at a young age, and they’re affected for life because of their beauty and voices.

The author makes a wonderful connection between their voices and the Lorelei myth. The Lorelei is a rocky cliff on the banks of the River Rhein in Germany. The myth is about a woman, Lore Lay, betrayed by a lover, who stood on the cliff using her voice to lure men to their deaths. Clara and Blanca’s voices are like beautiful sirens, mesmerizing Gareth and Jack.

Before I get into why I didn’t like the book, I have to state that my reader version format was bad. I encountered several areas where paragraphs and dialogues were stretched out or bunched together, leaving me to wonder if there was some other formatting left out.

This brings me to the first issue. There was no indication from one paragraph to the next, who the narrator was talking about. One moment, I was reading about Gareth, and then the next paragraph was about Siegfried. Normally, there’s some divide or new chapter when it comes to a different character or event. This wasn’t the case throughout the novel.

Second, the POV is 3rd person omniscient, which means an unknown narrator knows everyone’s thoughts and actions. I dislike this POV because it feels like head-hopping and I’m detached from the characters.

Third, the book lacked character development. It’s an all ‘telling’ book with very little show and description. The most descriptive part of the book is when von Palleske dives into the ocularist’s world and the making of glass eyes. She spent a great deal of time on this subject, which I think could have been better-spent creating lively characters. They all fell flat to me. I didn’t connect with any of the characters, which means I just didn’t care about them.

The author would also reveal something about a character, such as a secret love without hinting to it in the book. There was no flirting with the possibility of a later reveal.

Plus, the story moved like chunks of characters’ lives plopped down in chapters instead of flowing from one year or decade to the next. I would read about Jack and Gareth, then the ocularist, Hilda, and Clara and Blanca. Next thing I know, years have passed and Jack is somewhere new or there is a big character reveal without any warning.

I think the author meant well in merging myth, events or character traits, but she took on too much. I think this is a book for anyone who enjoys this POV and doesn’t like too much description.
Profile Image for Laura Prindable.
619 reviews
August 8, 2020
Thank you Net Galley for a copy of this ARC. This book was a slow starter for me, until I seen it ask come together. Beautifully woven story. The kind that sticks with you.
Profile Image for Heidi Palleske.
Author 4 books54 followers
June 6, 2021


Heidi von Palleske
Dundurn (Mar 9, 2021)
Softcover $18.99 (304pp)

"Quirky and meticulous, Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack is a literary novel of substantial merit."

Heidi von Palleske’s peculiar Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack is a novel in which nothing is incidental and aberrations abound.

The audience is required, from the get-go, to do some of the driving in this story; the reader’s early exposure to the distressing, compelling stories of the real-life inspirations behind the book ensure that there’s no turning back. As fast as Johnny, as a child, falls from a tree, readers are plunged into unsettling scenes and relationships. Broad strokes indicate who’s who and what’s going on; these come through the perceptions, life experiences, and blind spots of whichever individual seems to be closest to the action at any given moment. The rest is left for the reader to fill in.

Over time, as new people and relationships are introduced, and familiar ones are revisited, readers are forced to modify their initial impressions, all in order to conform to the ever-expanding perspectives of a multitude of narrators, all of whom operate from different vantage points. Because of their freakish appearances, strange ways, and horrific pasts, these characters suffer from dysfunctions and agonies common to anyone who’s cruelly rejected by their community’s norms.

Albino twins and bound boys find themselves in believable relationships against historical backdrops that are rendered with integrity. Their physical afflictions and artistic endeavors inform how they perceive the world; they also become central to the story. As their lives weave in and out of one another’s, and their alienation becomes the norm, each is forced to confront their abnormalities, and to choose whether to regard them as a blessing or a curse.

Quirky and meticulous, Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack is a literary novel of substantial merit.

Reviewed by Linda Thorlakson
March / April 2021

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

1 review
January 10, 2021
Echos of Robertson Davies. Character, story, images, all wound together in this tale that I could not put down
1 review
December 11, 2020
This book reads quickly...maybe too quickly. It was over and I still wanted more. Heidi has outdone herself. This book covers interesting topics in an insightful way. Thanks for the great read!
Profile Image for Shelly.
280 reviews16 followers
February 8, 2021
What a great book and I love how the cover cleverly ties in with the story!! If you’re looking for something a little different, a little edgy, somewhat sweet and occasionally heartbreaking this is the book to pick up! It will get you through the last cold days of winter & just might be a great valentines gift for your favorite reader.

Two White Queens and the One Eyed Jack begins with two innocent boys doing what boys do....playing & climbing a tree they’ve been warned not to climb. As Johnny (aka one eyed Jack) climbs the tree his best friend is on the ground goading him to climb ever higher. Johnny falls when the tree limb gives way and he is struck in the eye by a thorn bush. A life changing event for all the characters in the book, whether they know Johnny or not. It’s truly impressive how author Heidi von Palleske weaves these characters lives together and the character development is interesting and somewhat unexpected.

This ARC was provided by NetGalley via Dundurn Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

#NetGalley #TwoQueensandtheOneEyedJack #HeidivonPalleske
May 4, 2020
Review of Two white queens and the one eyed Jack by Heidi Von Palleske
The title of this book is a broad clue that this is a fairy tale; albeit a modern one but replete with all the requisite components; a hero in one eyed Jack, the two white queens cast as heroines, the villains found in an evil uncle and an ogre grandfather, and a tragic, doomed victim mother, setting the stage for a story that is beautiful in its symbolism and satisfying in its completion.
The story begins with two young boys climbing a tree and one of them, Johnny ( who later changes his name to the Jack of the title) falling in a horrible accident which results in the loss of his eye.
Eyes are paramount from this point on and sharply brought into focus as a pivot around which the story spins with the introduction of a German ocularist who turns out to be not just a giver of sight (or rather insight as opposed to vision which is an important distinction here) but a saviour of Jack's broken hearted mother too and it must be said a force for good throughout.
I should confess I am a reader who is very hard to please, even in books I love I tend to take issue somewhere, find something to pick holes in that I don’t quite like. Not so here I loved this book, I loved its sumptuous qualities and the sheer poetry of the language- it was no surprise to learn the author is also a poet. It has something of magic realism about it- if you are looking for something ultra realistic then this is not the book for you. The characters are finely drawn and authentic but there is always the realisation this is a story, it never strays too close to a portrayal of real life because of the stylistic feel to it. It is perhaps a story that is a little bit too perfect, a little bit too black and white in its rendering of good and evil and a little too neat and satisfying in its ending. For me this was no bad thing. There is tragedy and trauma certainly but it is tempered with symbolism and there again is the hallmark of a fairy tale; the villains get their come upperance and the heroes and heroines triumph.
This is a book to get lost in and I was bereft when I finished it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
1 review1 follower
February 21, 2021
Enchanting. From the first page to the last. This is companion literature. While you read it it will be your friend. When it is over, you will be angry that it’s over. But i know the author and I hear there may be a trilogy,. Enjoy. I am certain you will.
Profile Image for Brian Speagle.
5 reviews
February 21, 2021
One of my favourite definitions of all effective fiction goes something like this; "Extraordinary things happening to ordinary people." This is true for a novel, a play, or a film. Heidi von Palleske's novel 'Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack' excels in illustrating this definition, and does it one better. For not only are the 'things' extraordinary, but these events, in their entirety, serve to render the characters, the people, extraordinary as well.
I so admire how Ms von Palleske is able to initiate, develop, and maintain the various arcs of all of the main characters. For make no mistake, this story is character driven. They were not tacked on to aid the plot, but rather the plot/story grows from the humanity of the characters. As I continued to read, they became very real to me. I was lost in their lives. Incredible, when you think about it. That is so hard to commit to paper. This is something to which every writer aspires, and Heidi accomplishes it "in spades", if you will!
217 reviews3 followers
June 18, 2020
Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack is a totally unique and brilliant novel that will force you to keep reading well into the early hours of the morning.

The lives of two best friends, Jack and Gareth, and their families intertwine with the life of Albino twins Clara and Blanca to create a compelling read that spans decades. Von Palleske's writing is gripping, the characters are some of the most unusual and vivid I have come across (Hilda will always have a special place in my heart) and the story is completely unique.

An absolute must-read.

*I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Aaron.
11 reviews
August 24, 2020
Poetic and absolutely captivating. A story that spans a lifetime, told from many diverse and endearing perspectives. There was no protagonist that I didn't love in this story. Von Palleske breathes such incredible life into her characters, that it's impossible not to find yourself invested in how their story might end.

I don't say this lightly, but I truly believe that this is literary fiction at its finest. Historical, fantastical, gripping and adventurous, it really is unlike any other book I've read. It even made me cry, and I almost never cry over a book. If you love dark, seductive stories with unique and realistic characters, I would definitely recommend.
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