I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up this book. I adore Garret Freymann-Weyr’s other books, WHEN I WAS OLDER, MY HEARTBEAT, and STAY WITH ME. I think that she’s an absolutely brilliant writer. Her characters are always amazing. Her writing is always beautiful. Her stories are much, much more than the usual predictable stories (as I often think when struggling to write something new, fiction-wise, it seems, when I look at my overflowing bookshelf, that every story worth telling has been told).
So I’m not certain as to why I didn’t read THE KINGS ARE ALREADY HERE sooner. I wish I had! I think the authors other novels are marvelous, and this one does not disappoint. It’s a quick read, at less than 150 pages, but still a powerful, moving story. Despite its slim size, it is an intense story that holds more substance than many books three times larger.
It is a story of obsessions. Phebe and Nikolai both live their lives orbiting not around the sun but around their respective talents: ballet for Phebe and chess for Nikolai. To both of them, that is everything. They do not see much need for human relationships, for normal lives.
Right before they meet, though, Phebe is beginning to let her mind wander as she dances, to think of things that are not ballet. At the advice of her teacher, she decides to spend the summer with her father in Switzerland to clear her mind, and that is where she meets Nikolai.
Nikolai believes that Stas Vlajnik, a legendary chess player, can help him to improve his game. And, of course, to him, that is everything. Phebe, understanding the obsession, orchestrates a search for Vlajnik to help Nikolai. That summer in Europe, though, she is doing more than helping Nikolai; she is finding out that she is not only Phebe the ballerina, but Phebe the teenage girl, the person.
This is a wonderful little book. Breathtaking, even. It is an intelligent, emotional story that, like all of Garret Freymann-Weyr’s work, is something of a must-read.