Freefall: a Divine Comedy introduces Tillie Bloom, a wacky installation artist, who reconnects with three former friends—women she had hung out with in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s—in a four-day reunion at Whistler, B.C. The new intimacy they experience prompts them to celebrate their approaching sixtieth birthdays together, as well as the millennium, in Venice, Italy, where two thirds of the book take place. During this time, secrets surface, their stories binding them closer together.
As we come to know them better, the women’s identities shift, enlarging, becoming more complex. Each one’s life has taken a different direction. Tillie and Daddy have both moved to the States from Canada, where Tillie has given herself over to art. Daddy—once a radical feminist/hippie and now a lesbian—has turned into a successful real estate saleswoman. Moll, tres sportif, a housewife and mother of three, spends her free time exploring the Canadian outdoors. Sibyl—also married and a shrewd bookkeeper addicted to 4000-piece jigsaw puzzles, cigarettes, and wine—has a cabin in Whistler, a home in Vancouver, and a flat in Venice.
While Sibyl, Moll, and Daddy assume they’re in Venice to vacation and deepen their relationships, Tillie has a hidden agenda: she intends to crash the Biennale, an art extravaganza scheduled every other year, hoping to find a larger audience for her art. But first she must find the ideal place to construct her installation that features casts she made of her three friends’ bodies as well as other zany pieces.
Soon after they arrive in Venice, they visit the church of the Santa Maria Della Salute where Tillie and a lascivious priest, Father Lazarus (a half-Ethiopian dwarf), fall for each other. Later, Tillie thinks Frank, her former photographer lover, who recently died, has returned as a pigeon, much like the one that made a dramatic appearance at his wake. It pursues her through the streets of Venice, complicating her developing relationship with the priest and offering some wonderfully comic moments.
Tillie often gets lost in the maze of streets, but she resurfaces sooner or later, intrigued by the various reflective surfaces and how they participate in the city’s love affair with light. These reflections counter the pull of darker forces, causing the four women to reevaluate themselves and their lives. Tillie, in particular, experiences a new understanding of herself that propels her into a new age, not unlike what she had experienced in the early 1960s.
A humorous yet serious meditation on the relationship between art and mortality, Freefall: a Divine Comedy taps into the rich underground springs that feed all of our lives, suggesting that death is more complex than we normally believe—darkness and death being the source of life and not just the end. It also celebrates the imagination.
About the author: Born in Edmonton. Raised in Calgary. Currently living in the SF Bay Area. A high school dropout and a mother at 17, in my early years, I supported myself as a stock girl in the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a long distance operator for the former Alberta Government Telephones, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored me into the States). I also was a cocktail waitress at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco; briefly broke into the male-dominated world of the docks as a longshoreman (I was the first woman to work on the SF docks and almost got my legs broken); founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County; co-created The Story Shoppe, a weekly radio program for children that aired on KTIM in Marin County; and eventually earned two Master’s degrees (one in Creative writing and one in the Humanities). I’ve published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir in over 155 American and Canadian venues.
My Review: Freefall is a fast-paced read that is sure to draw you in from the beginning and hold your attention until the very end. The characters are realatable, realistic, and have interesting backstories. MacKenzie writes with a loving touch and a tender voice while creating a world unlike any other. Freefall is a lovely read that is perfect for anyone who loves to get lost within the pages. ** I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.**