Title: Echoes in the Mirror: A Memoir of an Ordinary Woman
Author: Bella A. DeCosta
In Echoes in the Mirror, New Jersey born Belle DeCosta takes the reader on the journey of her life so far, navigating a challenging upbringing and an adulthood littered with obstacles and achievements.
DeCosta’s life has been anything but ordinary despite the sub-title of her memoir. She is an adaptor, a survivor, and also, a naturally gifted storyteller who intrinsically knows how to pace and structure her writing, ensuring that Echoes in the Mirror is incredibly readable, especially during the first half.
The book begins with a short introduction and prologue. Both are touching, intriguing, and give the reader a quick, clear sense of where the Author is, and an idea of who she is. DeCosta’s force of personality and spiritual strength shines through, even in these brief opening pages.
Parts I and II of Echoes in the Mirror deal with DeCosta’s childhood and first husband, whom she married at aged sixteen. Her early years were scarred by her father’s severe addiction issues which seriously impacted her emotional wellbeing, and were the catalyst for her ill-fated teenage wedding.
DeCosta writes about these tumultuous times without overtly passing judgment, or settling blame on her parents. Her clear-eyed and engaging prose often disguises the horror of these formative years, making the reader occasionally pause to actually digest some of the unedifying events. This objectivity renders more power to her writing and poignancy to her story.
As she relays the daily conflict and turmoil that her and younger brother, John, endured, Echoes in the Mirror reads like a novel and one that is difficult to put down. This is mainly due to DeCosta’s writing style, which is incredibly free-flowing and personable. She has a knack for drawing the reader into her confidence without relying on self-indulgence or pity.
Understandable subjectivity creeps in when DeCosta discusses raising her daughter, Jean, as a single parent. However, through her chatty, intimate tone, she does a wonderful job of skillfully immersing the reader fully into her life without an over-reliance on trivial detail or superficiality.
Further, DeCosta is unashamedly candid. Nothing is sugar-coated, including her own mistakes for which she takes full responsibility. She admits to a few wrong decisions and her honesty elicits reader sympathy, if not always agreement. A good memoir should incite readers’ thoughts, interest, and debates in and about the author and their shared life experiences. Echoes in the Mirror certainly provokes all three.
There are cleverly placed hints of foreshadowing throughout the book, especially in relation to the breakdown of her two marriages. When combined with subtle cliffhangers at the end of most chapters, the framework of the book ensures it reads like an entertaining, cross-generational, family saga.
However, the beating heart of Echoes in the Mirror is DeCosta’s love and talent for dance. It’s interesting how her involvement in the many aspects and levels of the discipline, has reflected the ebb and flow of her life.
Nonetheless, parts of the book may have benefitted from a slightly more ruthless edit. It could be leveled, despite its easy readability, that the book is overly long. Chapters “Y Chromosomes and Me” and “Aliens from Planet Online” in Part VII which discuss her relationship history and the perils of online dating, while amusing, seemed oddly placed and, possibly unnecessary.
Echoes in the Mirror is a thoroughly engrossing memoir written by a woman whose resilient determination in the face of some overwhelming odds is humbling and inspiring. DeCosta gives the reader a wonderfully absorbing account of a life lived with positivity and integrity.
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