Orchid & The Wasp: A Novel by Caoilinn Hughes

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Her only brother. She’d imagined lesions on the soft tissues of his personality.

In Caoilinn Hughes’ debut novel, we are introduced to Gael Foess an intelligent, tough young woman who is good at lots of things. Gael knows it takes more than talent, skills to make a rich life. Her brother Guthrie suffers from an unusual illness his choices narrow his life, dull his talent, his brilliance. Gael refuses to let him sink in mediocrity, she will force all the good things she knows he deserves on him, whether he wants it or not. They have seen how their parents were reduced when life hit them, her father left, her mother’s luster dimmed out, no longer the amazing orchestral conductor she once was. It doesn’t have to be this way, she refuses to let Guthrie or herself submit to the mechanisms of fate. They won’t be victims!

When Gael leaves Dublin for the art scene in London and Manhattan, she has a plan. She knows how to work people, how to level the playing field. If it means success for her brother, what does it matter if she deceives? Artist, illness… it’s exactly what the wealthy hunger for. The further,longer she is away from her home and family the more she loses herself. She has to work the gallery scene, and it’s a jungle. Like any business, it requires decpetion. Just how much of her brother is she willing to sell, if it’s for the best? At what cost? There is tenderness in the telling of Guthrie’s childhood difficulties and the affection she gave him. But he is no longer a child.

For all of Gael’s shrewdness, she is blind when it comes to her family. Sometimes you can’t conquer every problem through sheer will, sometimes you have to accept the state of things and move forward. When we attempt to ‘fix’ our loved ones, sometimes we end up breaking them. It takes a sober mind to see oneself with clarity, Gael spends most of her days plowing through life, sure she knows what’s best for everyone, when she is sober. She gets tangled up in Occupy on Wall Street, works the galleries with a talent similar to her father’s, has run ins with love and remains sealed off to becoming truly close to anyone. She knows best, though, when it comes to her family. Or does she?

Gael can be a bit much but her actions are born out of love. The problem is she isn’t dealing with her own inner turmoil nor is she aware that her brother is his own person, with his own needs, desires. In fact, I think there is a little of Gael in all of us as we want to push our loved ones to strive for the best self they can. There is something maniacal in the ways we shadow our friends and family. It’s so much easier to fix others, isn’t it? It takes leaving Dublin and returning home to confront the reality she has been unable to discern in order to move forward. Love itself is all we can give, loving people enough to let them be who they are, and make their own choices, even if it’s against the life we imagined they deserve.

Publication Date: July 10, 2018

Crown Publishing

Hogarth

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