This is my ending, Davy. You’ve hardly begun.
Orphan Davy David struggles to make ends meet in the hopeless village of Brownvale. Days before Christmas, a stray dog named George completely changes Davy's life, as Davy triggers a series of events that force them to leave.
The two of them are transported by a cunning wind to an abandoned museum outside of town, where they encounter Miss Flint, an elderly hermit. She hires the hesitant Davy (and the little stray who follows him around named George) to accompany her on her final excursion before her time is up. However, the strangest thing happens as they move along: Miss Flint gets younger and younger with each mile, and the tale of her life progresses along with it.
The Road to Ever After by Moira Young is a 211-page contemporary-fantasy novel best suited for ages twelve and up. Its magical adventure, filled with unlikely friendships and a crazy turn of events, is determined to tug at your heartstrings.
This book had a generally unsettling writing style. Its prose focused on the strangeness of what was happening while describing the scene from an original perspective. The first three chapters felt aimless, which is the only part of the book that bothered me and made it less memorable.
It started by presenting Davy David, a typical main character who was orphaned, lonely, and artistic. His ironic name was also courtesy of his dead mother. His choice of artwork, sweeping angels, appealed to me because of its original, unique notion. You read that correctly. Davy is the town's anonymous angel maker who scatters angry-looking angels in residents' front yards after copying them from a library book (which was later given to him.) Davy is a quiet boy who keeps to himself, going about with the “unmemorable main character” trope, but he minds his business for a little too long and it dragged the beginning.
Although sweeping angels seems rather poetic, not everyone finds it appealing to have a mean-looking angel on their front lawn. I can't remember the name of the grumpy man Davy's photographs accidentally brought up because he was never a particularly noteworthy character. Davy is forced to flee, but he could have made that decision three chapters earlier, for a different purpose that would've made the book more intriguing. The call to action was when he practically hunts Davy down like any heartless wench does.
The first act of this novel never gave the slightest hint that the plot was going to "jump." If you’re a reader who loves the daily routines of a character being shared, you’ll appreciate this pacing, but that’s just not me.
There were many ideas throughout the story, like a small group of kind homeless people who gave Davy some food in order to celebrate, that I wish played a bigger part in the story. The ending didn’t achieve any closure about many little aspects because they were sprinkled in like sugar and salt.
The story "officially" began in the fifth chapter, when Davy meets Elizabeth Flint, an old woman with her death planned out. She wants "unmemorable, insignificant Davy" to assist her in her journey to, um, swallow some pills and die. Her funeral is prepared. She needs the assistance of a young stranger, who could easily be a thief. She’ll pay him a huge sum in exchange, assuming that he doesn’t take some money, go back to his boring town, and never come back.
Miss Flint appears wealthy, or at least, she generously rewards Davy with a mouthful of cash for performing even the simplest tasks, so at first, I felt nothing toward their relationship (not in a weird way). She also takes him to a nice restaurant. The pace quickened as they rented a place to stay and got to know one another (which was adorable, again, not in a weird way).
But the problem was that the relationships Davy had in the first act, such as a kindly librarian and a few people who helped him along the way, the story temporarily forgot about them. Did I mention that there was a loving stray dog, and he was attached to Davy for no reason, too? The idea was overdone, but I loved it nonetheless. Anything for the dog!
Miss Flint and Davy go from place to place, trying to reach Miss Flint’s “final destination” which is clouded with mystery and vagueness. All we know is that we (Davy) must get her to that place, for her to rest and take her final bow.
Davy’s uniqueness for being, um, easily forgettable, was once again brought up as he shares his life story to a closed off Miss Flint, who appears to understand him at a deeper level. She showed him interest in aspects of him that nobody else cared about, which was heartwarming as Davy navigated the new feeling.
She scrutinized him closely, not something he was used to. He shifted uneasily, but he held her gaze. “I can see why,”she said at last. “The first impression is that you’re ordinary, just a boy. But then one notices that your eyes are far too seeing. And that makes you not ordinary, but odd. I expect you make people feel uncomfortable.”
Miss Flint was interested in everyone’s life but her own, which I found bittersweet because it sparked my interest in how her life was leading up to that moment. At the beginning, she acted rude and snobbish, your typical "tired with life" elderly woman, but there were moments where she was stronger than she looked. Sometimes she refused to cooperate with Davy, probably because she turned him into a semi-criminal by stealing a car since they had no means of transportation. This happens when you lose the will to live; your moral values go wonky.
Nevertheless, Miss Flint successfully forced Davy to step out of his comfort zone. With her endless grumbling and nagging, they did reckless things spanning from theft to letting a child drive a car. Also, remember when I said that sometimes Miss Flint was stronger and faster than she looked? Spoiler alert: Her agility was caused by aging. Aging younger.
Miss Flint was aging backwards, and to anyone else but Davy and the little stray dog, she was invisible. Other dogs were afraid of her spirit, but she was real to the two of them. The magic behind her looking physically younger (and dead to others) wasn’t given, but it didn’t need an explanation to pull off the concept. I admire that the storytelling made it effective and clear that this book wasn’t focused on magical realism or spirituality, but rather on the past of a broken inner child and the essence of what it means to be alive.
There’s vague clarity on whether Miss Flint grew younger mentally, too, but as time went on, she became less of the grumpy old woman (maybe that’s because she grew closer to Davy) and more of a spirited young girl, navigating her heartbreaks and dreams until eventually, she stopped aging backwards, and what happens next, you’ll have to read for yourself.
We see Elizabeth "Lizzie" Flint show Davy a glimpse of her entire life in such a short span of time, but there were many events that added to her heartbreak, joy, and the disappointments and hope that life alternates with. Mostly disappointment. There’s a real and raw attribute that this book captures well. It feels so contemporary, despite having a woman whose face has faded from its wrinkles.
The story concludes with the journey of two people living their lives to the fullest, which was the aspect that I cherished. Davy’s life was restricted for obvious reasons, but he experienced more in a couple of hours than most of us do in our whole lives. That’s something cliche that everyone says about any book, but this one included the factor of an unresolved past and how it can affect our lives today. I won’t spoil the ending, especially not the final destination, but in conclusion, the ending was bittersweet and beautiful.
I’ve been solitary for a very long time. The past few hours, I’ve lived more and felt more than I have for many years. That’s thanks to you.
Be unafraid, Davy David. For the time we are given is rare and brief. Fly on your own wings.
The last line about the wings was a sweet allusion to Davy's creations of winged angels, which somehow make a comeback in the story when he gives up his most valued possession—the library book from which he copied the angel pictures from. But to quote Miss Flint, "an artist makes their own pictures."
An interesting fact is that only Davy and George are depicted on the book's cover. The stray dog was given the name George, once he was adopted because every book with a stray dog ends with that. The two of them were going down a road without Miss Flint. Or so it appears... What if we just weren't able to see her because... you know. Kudos to whoever thought of that idea!
Cailey Tin is a mixed raced Philippine-based staff writer and podcast co-host at The Incandescent Review. Her work was recognized by Spillwords Press and shortlisted in Your Fire Magazine, and published in Fairfield Scribes, Gypsophila zine, Alien Magazine, The Inflections, and more, under the pen name Cailey Tarriane.