Toria Newman’s novel, The Chrysalis: Robin’s Story, is part coming of age tale, part romance, and part spiritual narrative.
Robin or “Robbie” is a young woman in her early 20s. Because she suffers from spastic cerebral palsy, Robbie is dependent on her family and feels trapped inside her dysfunctional body. A budding relationship with Pete, who also is afflicted with the disorder, as well as a near-death experience, sets Robbie on a course from cumbersome caterpillar to beautiful, free butterfly.
The premise for The Chrysalis, while not especially unique, has potential. However, the book is in need of a strong editorial hand to appeal to general readers. Grammatical errors, inconsistencies, plot problems and ambiguities make reading a challenge.
The novel starts with a chapter that seems intended as a hook: There’s a grave accident; the protagonist is in what is obviously heaven; then she returns to her hospital room. But Chapter Two suddenly takes readers in an entirely new direction. There’s no transition, and the plot’s momentum comes to a near halt as Robbie narrates a series of mundane events that are often difficult to understand, with statements such as, “She was never backward in coming forward when it came to expressing her feelings and opinions.”
Meanwhile, Robbie talks about being on the phone with her love interest Pete but then also says, “my speech is almost impossible to understand” and later mentions using a special board to communicate. Further explanation is necessary to illustrate how these are all possible for Robbie.
As someone who lives with cerebral palsy—the disorder plaguing her protagonist—Newman has an intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of this debilitating movement affliction. Unfortunately, The Chrysalis’ technical issues obstruct readers from fully understanding her message. These must be addressed in order to keep readers engaged with Robbie and her metamorphosis.
Also available as an ebook.