Title: The Art of Falling
Author: Kathryn Craft
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
As a ballet dancer, movement is everything to Penny. So when she wakes up in the hospital after having fallen 14 stories off a balcony with no memory of the events that led her there, she’s in shock. Slowly, Penny must rebuild her life and understand the decisions that brought her to such a breaking point. Was it an accident, or did she try and take her own life?
Kathryn Craft delivers excellent commentary on women and body image through her novel The Art of Falling. Penny is a sympathetic, if lost, character and readers will enjoy her story of growth and change as she comes to accept who she is.
The Art of Falling starts out as a mystery—what happened to Penny on that balcony?—but it quickly becomes clear that this is a quieter, character-driven novel about one woman’s search for herself. Penny defined herself through dance, so when she wakes up and can’t move, it quickly becomes clear that something will have to change for her. As she struggles through her therapy and learns to dance again, Penny discovers some difficult truths about herself, ones she can’t ignore. Craft did a great job writing an imperfect, sympathetic character that readers will appreciate.
One of the main themes of The Art of Falling is the relationship between a woman and her body. Body image is a huge issue in today’s society, and it’s even worse with dancers. Penny doesn’t have the typical long, lean dancer’s body—she’s broader, with big hips. That knowledge makes Penny feel that much more conscious of her body; she doesn’t fit the standards of beauty that define her career. Dancer or not, this is something that any woman can relate to, not fitting someone else’s arbitrary standards of what it is to be beautiful, whether it’s skin color, hair texture, or body type. Craft handles this discussion beautifully; she doesn’t lecture the reader, but rather leaves it to them to ponder.
There’s a romance around being a dancer, and Craft brings that to life in The Art of Falling. She dismantles the mystique, showing the cutthroat, brutal world Penny lives in, but she also shows the beauty and wonder. It’s not an easy thing to balance, but Craft does it well. For such a novel of self-discovery, there’s a lot going on, but it’s artfully constructed. Readers never feel as if they’re getting pulled too far in one direction; it maintains its status as a quiet novel, but one that keeps you interested with its many subplots.
It’s hard to find unassuming, thoughtful novels these days; it seems as though there’s no subtlety anymore. When an author has a message, they’re happy to pound it into you. Craft sidesteps this deftly, making key points about the world around us, but leaving it up to the reader to really ponder them. This novel is very well done, and I look forward to seeing what this talented author does next.