Book Review: Ellen Schecter reviews Erica Miles’ novel Dazzled by Darkness

Dazzled by Darkness, by Erica Miles, is an exciting, multi-faceted novel that feels as authentic and intimate as a memoir.  It brings the reader right back into the tumult of the Sixties, when tensions burned high between the races and abortions were available only in dangerous back alleys or expensive, faraway places like Puerto Rico.

Racism inevitably seeps beneath the skins of the two young lovers, Gavilán and Sara, clear-cut and engaging characters that inhabit worlds that are long-gone, yet pulse with life in the author’s evocations.  Author Miles deftly avoids any racial stereotypes in creating her characters, offering a more intimate view to readers who may have little experience with the black or Latino communities.

Delicate pencil drawings by Selma Eisenstadt and Ms. Miles enrich the book, emphasizing the artistic theme that drives the story.  Sara works at the Brooklyn Museum and is blessed with a lyrical imagination.  Gavilán is an artist whose imaginary encounters with Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Picasso, Andy Warhol and others provide him with ideas and inspiration–but it is his soulful conversations with his best friend and spiritual big brother, James, that unveil the deepest secrets of his heart.

Sara, from a middle-class Jewish background, is the more elusive, impulsive character.  From the beginning, she takes heart-pounding risks: endangering the children who take classes at the museum, painting her skin dark to ride on the subway with Gavilán, quitting her job over an imagined insult.  And despite the inevitable insults from both sides of a racist world, it is basic incompatibility rather than race that finally drives Sara and  Gavilán apart.   Yet both grow into happiness in surprising ways.  I won’t spoil it for you–give yourself the pleasure of reading the book to find out.

Dazzled by Darkness, by Erica Miles
(Available for purchase on Amazon.com)

–Ellen Schecter,
author of Fierce Joy

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