With the same magical lyricism as The Nature of Water and Air, Regina McBride's second novel contains imagery that lifts her story into the realm of mythology. In a whisper, McBride beckons the reader "follow me" through the mist-layered halls of memory where tales of the Isles are born. This is, indeed, a novel about romantic love, but even more so it navigates the ties between a mother, Jane O'Faolain, and her daughter, Fiona, the strength of their connections and the wounds opened by carelessness. From the first page, the reader is tempted into Fiona's world as she speaks of her mother, "the pale smells of her mother's skin and hair; a smell like new muslin washed in salt water and left to dry in the wind."
Fiona O'Faolin has left the land of her birth and lives in the arid beauty of New Mexico. But when Fiona receives word of her mother's death, she is drawn back across the ocean to a haunted past Fiona has denied. In so doing, Fiona has refused her own sexuality and it has closed like a flower, unable to bloom. When Fiona meets Carlos Aragon, her latent sexuality reawakens. He tells her of a place in Spain, Galicia, "where the terran changes to verdant green and the air is charged with salt from the sea, as a piece of Ireland has seeded in the shore of Spain". Carlos has an ancestor, once shipwrecked off the shores of Ireland, who was rescued by three women from the mythological Land of Women who loved him back to health. The sailor could never forget that love for the rest of his days at home in Galicia and always longed for his timeless past.
Haunted by erotic dreams night after night, Fiona struggles to open the door to memory and the extraordinary childhood ties to her mother, as well as an unbearable betrayal. Recalling the awakening of her first love, Fiona is overwhelmed by the intensity of those feelings. She gradually explores the truth of her female power, drawing a male to her, knowing he will leave. She senses that this is the real secret of the myth: "Paradise costs; it cannot be entered recklessly." And she has paid.
Through Fiona and Jane, McBride explores the earliest, almost symbiotic bond between a mother and daughter, when their spirits are bound together. And she addresses the reluctance in a young woman to embrace the changes wrought by maturity, when that frail thread may be severed and the mother's flaws are all too real. McBride renders Fiona's flowering sexuality with brilliant precision, beautifully describing the young woman's response to her own awakening. Only Fiona can own the simple early adoration of her wild, needy mother, and the past will be put to rest. Childhood dreams are not easily released, but this sensitive and sensual novel is a tribute to the nature of love in The Land of Women.