THE GIRL WITH GLASS FEET is a tale of life and death, what we do with our time, who we spend it with, and how deeply we love.
Ida Maclaird has come to St. Hauda's Land looking for answers to a strange affliction: her feet are turning to glass. She is hoping to track down a man named Henry Fuwa, who she believes has a possible cure. Out walking one day she meets Midas Crook, an island native. He's introverted, skittish, and mostly avoids people. He prefers to see the world through the lens of his camera. For Midas, it's easier to photograph life than to experience it. After their encounter, he can't stop thinking about her. All he wants to do is get the perfect picture of her and find out why she is wearing large, ill-fitting boots. He wonders what the boots are hiding and becomes obsessed with seeing her feet.
Ida, outgoing and friendly to Midas's lonely and shy state, stops by the flower shop where he works and asks him to coffee. She confesses that she is looking for a man named Henry Fuwa. Midas knows him, but because of his own emotional and personal history with Henry, he tells her nothing. He wants to help but can't bring himself to say the words or to actually do anything. It is Ida who pushes the relationship forward. When she invites him to the cottage she is staying at, he gets a look at her feet, which entrance him enough to photograph them while she sleeps. Ida is hurt by his actions but somehow still wants him around. Midas is grateful but unable to express it.
Midas becomes so captivated with Ida and her feet that he goes to see Henry Fuwa without alerting Ida. Henry tells him what he doesn't want to hear --- there is no cure, and the glass will eventually overtake her whole body. Midas doesn't tell Ida about this visit or what he has learned, but is determined to help her. Somehow Ida finds herself falling in love with Midas, though she can't help but wonder if it's the affliction or Midas that is actually causing the feelings she's having. While she is hoping for a cure, she can see the glass spreading and is all too aware of the fact that she hasn't much time left.
Over the course of Ida looking for a cure, readers are introduced to a strange cast of island residents all disturbed and suffering some ailment of their own. This is a sad story with death hanging over every page. It's almost as if every one of the island residents is grieving in their own way, sadly looking for answers and emotions long passed or forgotten. They all seem to crave some light and happiness on a damp, foggy island. While the story is full of failures, romantic and otherwise, Ida and Midas do find each other. Although the romance is far from romantic, it forces them to focus on the present and enjoy what's in front of them.
I wasn't sure what to think of the characters. They are all so strange and, in many ways, unlikable, but so appealing that you can't look away. Ida is different from everyone, but she's also not native to the island that sets her apart in so many ways. I thought some parts of Ali Shaw’s debut were slightly confusing, and a few extra words of explanation could have helped in places, but ultimately THE GIRL WITH GLASS FEET is a book you can't put down. While I don't think each story needs a happy ending, I was slightly surprised and pleased by how this one turned out.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on January 22, 2011