Two White Queens and The One-Eyed Jack, By Heidi von Palleske

How can you not pick up a book with the title Two White Queens and The One-eyed Jack? Such a title promises an out-of-the-ordinary experience, and author Heidi Von Palleske delivers, starting with the unusual cast of characters and a penchant for eye trauma.

A young boy’s act unintentionally results in another boy losing an eye. A third boy has been blind in one eye since birth and doesn’t know it. Two albino twin sisters with a troubled family history have reduced vision as part of their albinism. The lives of these characters, their families and others intertwine during the story. Family tragedy, abuse, betrayal and the many faces of guilt form a backdrop to the story. Characters search for love and acceptance. Longing transforms to belonging. Guilt encounters change, forgiveness and yes, sometimes retribution. The past comes back to haunt and fulfill.

Sight in its physical and metaphorical sense features prominently in the narrative. A Berlin ocularist makes glass eyes, perfect eyes that will never see, to replace missing ones. I found him to be the most human and interesting of the characters. Each year he makes replacement eyes for himself in case he loses his sight. These eyes reflect changes as he ages: an extra vein, a cloudiness, a tinge of yellow. He wants the orbs to reflect what is inside the person’s soul. He says to the boy who lost his eye:

“… there are two types of seeing … the outward-looking and inward-looking…. I will make you the best eye possible, and you will have to start doing the seeing. Inward-seeing. And that, my new friend, is called insight.”

Palleske uses juxtaposition effectively. While it is the twins’ vision that is impaired, people with fully functioning eyesight see only the girls’ whiteness. A woman who fled Germany and the holocaust offers the twins the security they long for. One of the one-eyed boys becomes a photographer where monocular vision is an asset. It takes the loss of her son’s sight for a woman to see the failure in her own marriage. A man who has been blind to what has been happening in his family provides a resolution.

See also  Against the Machine: Manifesto by Brian Van Norman

I loved the quirkiness of the characters. This is a dense book with a large field of characters and multiple storylines that required Palleske’s deft hand to knit it together. Two White Queens and The One-Eyed Jack is published by Dundurn.


Heidi von Palleske is a writer, actor, and activist. She has written poetry, articles, and fiction, and won the H.R. Percy Novel Prize for They Don’t Run Red Trains Anymore. Heidi spends time on both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts but calls Toronto home.

  • PUBLISHER: Dundurn; 2021
  • ISBN: 9781459746787
  • Pages: 288

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/3oruLi1 Thanks! 


About the Reviewer: Patricia Sandberg escaped a law career and became a writer. Her short stories have been shortlisted in competitions, published at The Cabinet of Heed and in the Lit Mag Love Anthology. She is hard at work on a World War I historical novel. Her 2016 award-winning, nonfiction book Sun Dogs and Yellowcake: Gunnar Mines, a Canadian Story is about life in a uranium mine in northern Canada during the height of the Cold War.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x