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Maya Radelis has spent the last seven months running from herself. After the death of a patient, she abandons her pediatric residency in New York City for the jungles of Guatemala and the Family Health Volunteers Mission. However, after exhausting her six-month leave, she still cannot bring herself to return to New York. Instead, Maya ends up in Edinburgh, Scotland, where fate intervenes.
In a small antique shop, an inscribed ring somehow “calls” to her. Unwilling to part with it, Maya purchases the ring and traces its history. She has seven days before she must return to the university and face the consequences of her absence, as well as the investigation of her patient’s death. Fearing she will no longer be allowed to pursue a medical career and dreading the meeting where her fate will be revealed. Maya wants to make the most of her search for the ring’s previous owner, especially after she begins to have strange dreams and memory-like episodes of the woman she thinks owned the ring. Enlisting the help of Pauline, her French friend, she traces an odd, twisting path through Paris then Bern, Switzerland. The more she discovers, the more she begins to question her destiny.
With its alternating narration, Elena Mikalsen’s Wrapped in the Stars, shows two women’s worlds, so far apart and yet so similar. Maya Radelis, an American medical student, is shown in parallel with the life of a Swiss medical student in the years leading up to World War I, Rebecca Miller. Though the obstacles for Rebecca are vastly different than the ones facing Maya, their feelings of uncertainty and their love of medicine are very much the same. Rebecca’s desire to become a doctor comes from a family heritage of medicine and, in some part, from the death of her brother, Karl. Maya is also following a family legacy while hoping to somehow erase the guilt she feels for the childhood death of her twin sister, Ella. Both of these accomplished women have this need to “[e]arn [their] right to be alive” and somehow validate their own existence through medicine.
Both women share a Jewish ancestry, and neither woman sees the need to marry, desiring instead their independence in a world they have built, instead of the one handed to them through family ties and marriage bonds. While fearing the lonely paths before them, Maya and Rebecca doubt their abilities and often wonder if their sacrifices are truly worth the pain of disappointing others. However, each find men strong enough to understand them both and love them eternally.
“Synchronicity,” or “meaningful coincidences” plays an enormously important role in the novel. Readers will enjoy following Maya’s story, the twists and detours that create such an interesting plot as her history and future entwine. A tactic Mikalsen skillfully employs to make one wonder just how much we choose for ourselves and how much the universe decides for us.
Eternal love is the most touching aspect of Maya’s and Rebecca’s stories. The German inscription Maya finds in Rebecca’s ring says it best with its message of living within the heart of another and being forever “therein.” It’s a beautiful message, a love strong enough to defy death and reclaim the lovers a century later. Something is reassuring and peaceful in believing love cannot die. And when all is said and done, what lovers wouldn’t want such a legacy?
Wrapped in the Stars received First Place in the CIBAs 2018 CHATELAINE Awards for Romantic Fiction.