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August 30, 2021

Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack by Heidi Von Palleske ~ a Review

by MK French



In 1965, six-year-old Gareth and Jack competed to see who would climb a tree the fastest, but Jack fell and lost an eye in a thorn bush. The two later meet albino twins Clara and Blanca and help them escape their situation and create a new future.

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Two  White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack
March 2021; Dundurn; 978-1459746787
ebook, print (304 pages); gothic fiction

Spanning the decades and crossing multiple countries, Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack is a character study and deals with love and forgiveness. Because of that, POV varies between scenes, and across chapters, we see-saw in time as well. From the start we have Gareth, feeling terrible about encouraging Jack to go too high, to Jack’s mother Hilda reflecting on her past and marriage, to Jack himself and his feelings around the fake eye and meeting the German ocularist his mother insisted on bringing him to. Jack’s fear of losing his good eye is contrasted with Gareth’s older brother, who has one strong eye and a “lazy” one that doesn’t see well. Tristan always had that as his normal and continues through life without the fear that Jack does. Even the twins don’t have that same sense of fear as Jack, even though their albinism makes them stand out and their mother doesn’t take care of them. Their mother Faye is institutionalized, and it’s heartbreaking once we realize why.

This start carries through the rest of the book. This gives the entire novel a more laid-back and easygoing rhythm as we pass through the decades it covers. Even the horrors and abuse in the book have an almost dreamlike quality, though it doesn’t minimize the impact of trauma at all. If anything, it gives the reader the same hazy experience that the characters go through, muting the terror of the past in order to continue surviving in their present. The theme of sight/vision plays throughout the novel. There is the obvious part of Jack having one eye, Tristan with sight in one eye as well as the ocularist making glass eyes. There is also truth and revealing secrets, seeing people for who they are and not the symbols they might be, as well as the insight someone can have through art.

I was drawn into the story, getting lost in the tangled lives of all the characters. This is a great slice of life kind of novel so that we see how lives can influence each other in time, and the influences weave in and out throughout their lifetimes.



Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.



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