High School Teacher Marian Musmecci’s Debut Novel

Magic Realist by Night

Marian Musmecci is a Santa Barbara schoolteacher and author of <em>Thin Places</em>.

To most women, Leah Callaghan’s life appears ideal: a custom-built house, two precocious tots, and a fulfilling job guiding troubled adolescents, not to mention a firefighter husband. The jealousy ebbs when a revelation shakes this charmed existence-and Leah’s stoic perfectionism-to their foundations: a sealed letter from Leah’s long-dead grandmother, if opened, threatens to bend her seamless world beyond recognition. In Marian Musmecci’s Thin Places, domestic idyll intersects the often ethereal, sometimes frightening planes of Celtic legend.

A Dos Pueblos High School English instructor, Musmecci flouts the old saw that “those who can’t do, teach” with this 450-page novel whose composition demanded months of research, and evenings, weekends, and summers booked solid at the keyboard. Only after her sons and daughter left home to pursue careers in music did Musmecci consider her accumulated life experience sufficient to allow her to tell Leah’s story. “The more a person has to experience,” she said of her book’s theme, “the greater that person can be.”

Though she calls it a work of magic realism, a literary tradition that blurs the boundary between the mundane and the fantastical, Thin Places showcases Musmecci’s own character-driven take on the genre. Influenced by masters like Leo Tolstoy, Gabriel Garc-a M¡rquez, and Carlos Fuentes, she shifted focus from the events to the people: their personalities, their attitudes, and their interactions. “There’s nothing I’d rather do than write,” Musmecci said, explaining that her love of the craft prevented the project from turning arduous, and allowed such immersion that ultimately, “the characters became my friends.”

Intense detail characterizes Thin Places’s style, giving full body to the quotidian, the otherworldly, and everything in between. Lovingly detailed descriptions of the Callaghan family’s home life will resonate with wives and mothers, and the meticulous retelling of ancient Irish folklore will appeal to mythology buffs. Because she published the novel with iUniverse, a new firm that allows its authors full creative control, Musmecci had the freedom to explore her characters and their lives extensively. “Enjoy the unfolding,” Musmecci advised the prospective reader. “Allow the book to happen to you.”

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Thin Places is available at Barnes & Noble, Chaucer’s Books, and Tecolote Books, as well as online at iUniverse.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com. Marian Musmecci will sign copies of Thin Places on Saturday, August 25, from 3-4 p.m. at Tecolote Books (1470 E. Valley Rd., Montecito), and at the Santa Barbara Book & Author Festival on September 29.

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