Girl with Glass Feet

The Girl with Glass Feet

by Ali Shaw

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw.

I’m not giving anything away when I say that fairy tales are horrible, dark, full of death, bestiality, cannibalism, murder, infanticide — yes, perfect for the little ones. They draw from the deepest of our subconscious wells, where good and evil fight endlessly in the dark forests and icy pools of our minds. They are places where anything can happen, where wolves and queens pose equal dangers to young virgins, where the mirror is your enemy and ever growing hair can save your life. Fairy tales also operate by their own internal rules, as strict as clockwork — mothers will die, vanish or otherwise abandon their children, fathers will remarry unwisely, the path is dark and dangerous, sacrifice is inevitable.

In Ali Shaw’s gorgeous modern fairy tale, The Girl With Glass Feet, the titular heroine, Ida, joins a long list of young ladies with problems below the knee. From the little mermaid to the unfortunate owner of The Red Shoes, feet are trouble. Ida’s feet have inexplicably turned to glass, and the condition seems to be creeping north. It may sound delicate and pretty, like Christmas tree ornaments, but Ida is not amused. She returns to what she thinks is the scene of the crime, a tiny island community called St. Hauda’s Land — a decrepit fishing village now covered in snow and deserted by tourists but containing flashes of stunning beauty. While searching for a cure she meets Midas Crook, a young man so sensitive you can’t imagine him surviving anywhere other than this insular little community. He doesn’t have glass feet but he does carry his camera everywhere, so one might say he has glass eyes. As the story unfolds and Ida’s condition worsens, we meet the neighbors, explore the island, and grow to realize just how strange St. Hauda’s Land really is. It can be bitter and bleak, but there are things like the glorious moth-winged cattle, no bigger than sparrows, mooing away. I wouldn’t mind living in that world. Meanwhile, Ida and Midas, two misfit toys, following the rules of fairy tale, find love and growth and strength and of course, sacrifice. This book is romantic and beautiful and strange and sad. It’s one of those you just don’t forget.


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