Review: River Street Writing – STELLA’S CARPET BY LUCY EM BLACK

 In Reviews & Press

If you do not have an appreciation for Persian carpets you will by the time you finish Lucy EM Black’s novel Stella’s Carpet. After reading Black’s vibrant descriptions of their artistry and rich history, I found myself searching the Internet for images of the patterns she writes about. But this is not a novel about carpets. At the heart of the story is a dysfunctional family with many secrets.

Stella’s Carpet by Lucy EM Black, available wherever books are sold.

As so many of us can relate to love, family, friendships, and relationships are messy, and Stella’s family is deeply entrenched in complicated. Her beloved grandparents—Stan and Maria Lipinski, are World War Two Holocaust survivors unable to escape the horrors and atrocities they were forced to endure during the Nazi and Russian occupations in Poland. Their daughter Pamela has grown up under the weight of their trauma, which has left her miserable and often unbearable to be around. Because she is in her mother’s direct line of resentment, the thread of the elder Lipinski’s trauma continues to weave through the family line infiltrating Stella’s psyche. Stella compensates by endlessly battling to appease a mother she will never be to and cautiously navigating her world by avoiding relationships with her colleagues and students.

And then there’s William Wheeler, Stella’s father, who has a distant relationship with his family, but a close one with his ex-wife Pam’s parents. So much so, that William and his new wife—the beautiful Fatima, who is a survivor of the Iranian Revolution—have named their son after Stella’s grandfather.

The true mastery of Black’s novel is that it explores family dynamics through the lens of love, loss, grief, reconciliation, and redemption. It is structured in short chapters with the voices of Black’s characters intertwined throughout. There is nothing random in this approach as it provides the reader with snapshots into their lives—their struggles, their secrets, and the impact of their decisions. At the end of book, much like the threads of a luxurious Persian carpet, Black has effortlessly woven a tale about the consequences of intergenerational trauma and the desire by all to be accepted and loved.

When I closed Stella’s Carpet for the last time, I was not finished with Stella’s story, because as good books do, they leave us reflecting upon what we have read. As Black skillfully demonstrates in her novel, war has a devastating impact on families long after the treaties have been signed. Today, as wars rage on in Ukraine, Yemen, Syria… the list goes on, I found myself wondering about all the wrath this is causing—and will be causing—on many families for generations to come.