The Dancer

Fiction - Womens
316 Pages
Reviewed on 06/02/2020
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Michelle Vernal lives in Christchurch, New Zealand with her husband, two teenage sons and attention seeking tabby cats, Humphrey and Savannah. Before she started writing novels, she had a variety of jobs:
Pharmacy shop assistant, girl who sold dried up chips and sausages at a hot food stand in a British pub, girl who sold nuts (for 2 hours) on a British market stall, receptionist, P.A…Her favorite job though is the one she has now – writing stories she hopes leave her readers with a satisfied smile on their face.

The Dancer is a story close to her heart as it deals with adoption and dementia two subjects her family knows intimately. This isn’t her story though. It’s Isabel and Veronica’s and if you decide to read it, she hope it makes you smile.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Heather Osborne for Readers' Favorite

After Veronica found herself pregnant as a teenage dancer, she decided to give up the baby girl, Isabel. Working at a perfume counter in a department store with twin boys and separated from her husband, Veronica is desperate for fulfillment. Now in her forties, she reflects often on her past life and wonders what might have been had she decided not to give up her daughter. Balancing home and her mother, who is succumbing slowly to Alzheimer’s and has been put in a care home, Veronica wonders if there is really more to life than the path she has set herself upon.

Isabel has grown up knowing she was adopted. When she finally sums up the courage to ask her mother for her birth mother’s address, Isabel struggles with what to do with the information, knowing she must be the one to make the first contact, as dictated by the adoption agreement. Living on the Isle of Wight with her boyfriend, she works as a homeopath, while he works as a painter. Encouraged by a dear old friend, Isabel must decide whether or not to take the plunge and contact the woman who gave her up nearly twenty-seven years ago.

The Dancer by Michelle Vernal is a heart-warming women’s fiction novel chronicling the parallel lives of a mother and her daughter. Although not often a reader of women’s fiction, I am genuinely glad I picked up The Dancer by Michelle Vernal. She develops the parallel lives of Veronica and Isabel very well and is able to weave in the events of Veronica’s past seamlessly. Amongst a cast of colorful supporting characters, Vernal takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery, reflection, and hope. I would certainly recommend this novel for fans of women’s fiction and will look for other novels by this author in the future.

Shrabastee Chakraborty

After her father left them, Veronica started taking ballet classes at her mother’s insistence. However, an unexpected pregnancy brought her dancing career to an abrupt halt. Furthermore, she had to give up baby Isabel for adoption. As a middle-aged woman, her days are now filled with a job, taking care of her teenage sons, and occasionally playing host to Abigail, her wayward sister. She regularly visits her mother, who resides in a care home, fighting Alzheimer’s. Amidst all the activities, she still pines for Isabel. Meanwhile, Isabel lives a happy life with her adoptive parents, friends, and partner. She yearns to contact her birth mother, yet feels hesitant. Will they ever be able to connect despite all odds? The Dancer by Michelle Vernal can answer this question.

As an authentic women’s fiction, The Dancer highlights the female characters and beautifully sketches the nuances of various relationships. Veronica is an admirably strong character who caters to her family while keeping her grief concealed. Isabel is kind and loving to everyone she meets. The novel underscores the fact that a family is not always based on blood relations. Caring enough for someone makes them your family. It also reminds us that each story has multiple sides to it, and taking the time to understand each other’s perspectives often helps to resolve the issues. As a self-proclaimed champion of happy endings, Vernal ties up all the loose threads nicely, making it a feel-good read. I would suggest this novel to anyone looking for a comfortable and heart-warming book.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

The Dancer by Michelle Vernal portrays the unique bond between mothers and daughters. Veronica’s life didn’t turn out as she imagined as a young and gifted dancer. She is a single mum of twin teenage boys, who sells perfume at the local department store. Enduring her annual ritual, Veronica sits alone with a slice of cake in her hand. Once again she looks through her hidden shoebox of treasures, feeling the pain of a decision made long ago. Today is Isabel’s twenty-seventh birthday. Isabel knows she was adopted. She adores her adoptive parents and is living a good and promising life with her boyfriend. Yet, there is a yearning to contact her birth mother, Veronica Stanley. Isabel finally summons up the courage to write a letter to Veronica. But, fearing rejection, Isabel struggles for weeks to mail it. Meanwhile, Veronica gathers up a bag of old dance costumes and places them in the back seat of her car. Veronica’s mother, Margo, is in a home battling Alzheimer’s. Veronica visits often, each time bringing a garment for her mother to hold as she tells her a story. Veronica’s story is a tale of dance, love, soul mates, and the decision that changed her life forever. Even though, “some memories were too painful to touch,” Veronica realizes she must relive and share the past to unlock the future.

Michelle Vernal pens an emotionally charged, character-driven story in The Dancer. The narrative revolves around the lives of three women: Veronica, Isabel, and Margo. Their individual life stories are weaved together with threads of enduring love. However, love that endures is often forged through pain. Passionately written, you experience the emotions of the characters. “When you could no longer do the very thing that defines you” a part of you dies. “It is cruel to have a passion and no longer be able to fulfill it.” The main characters are internally conflicted; regret, secrets, fear, and guilt are suppressed. As you read, you are aware that one pulled thread could unravel their lives completely. As the story unfolds, the struggle intensifies until it can no longer be contained. The fear and the pain must be released, and when it does beauty emerges from the ashes of the past. The Dancer is a story of a family, portraying all of its ups and downs. Michelle Vernal’s story is heart-driven, one that will make you smile through a stream of tears.