Gypsy Gold by Valerie Worth Review by Diane Wilkes
This young adult novel by Valerie Worth, author of several books on witchcraft, is the engaging story of red-haired Miranda, a 16 year old girl who seeks refuge with a band of Gypsies, finding true love--and herself--in the bargain.
Miranda's father, after trying in vain to teach her his trade as an apothecary, resolves to marry his daughter off to a wealthy older man who makes Miranda's skin crawl. She runs off to join the itinerant Gypsies who have recently come to her town, in the hope that she will learn to "tell fortunes" and have adventures. Not surprisingly, they don't want her, concerned that she will bring them trouble.
Miranda finds a way (else this would be a short story at best), and discovers the facts about the much-maligned group she has romanticized. She also learns that she has a psychic gift. Since it's a young adult novel, she also falls in love.
The good news is that Worth is a skilled, unaffected raconteur. If you read carefully, you realize that Miranda is not only following a picaresque path, but an initiatory one. The characters are wholesome, yet multi-dimensional, and the story is satisfying on a number of levels.
One of those levels is the tarot content, which is considerable for a novel. The book cover has four tarot cards, one in each corner: the Knave of Wands (who represents Leo, Miranda's true love), the Queen of Pentacles (who represents Miranda), The Fool, and the World. The Fool and the World are two sides of the same coin, and Worth brings this home through both the plot and the final tarot reading in the book. Several cards and readings are explored, and the author's observations and insights are both unique and wise. There is also an appreciation of the natural world and an understandable explanation of how psychic phenomena works; the author brings these things together beautifully.
Worth also punctures the negative gypsy stereotype, replacing it by drawing fully-dimensional characters with both positive and negative attributes.
The bad news is that this book is currently out-of-print, but you can often locate it via used bookstores on the Internet. It is very worthwhile tracking down if you follow a pagan path, find tarot in literature of interest, or simply wish to read an uplifting, spiritual young adult novel. Gypsy Gold is one of my favorite examples of tarot in fiction and I've read it numerous times. It never fails to hold my attention and warm my heart simultaneously.
Gypsy Gold by Valerie Worth
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
"But how could it come about that way, without my even trying," Miranda asked.
"Ah, but you've been working at it," Bella answered her with a smile. "Even when you only learned the meanings of the cards. Even when you thought none of it was any use, and I was just a silly old woman filling your head with a pack of lies."
Miranda blushed at these words. "I'm sorry, Bella," she murmured. "Though, really, I didn't always think so--and it was only because I was so unhappy and felt such a fool."
"Fool you may have been," said Bella, "but fool you were bound to be, as your own cards showed. For, as I told you then, the Fool's both foolish and wise at once. He's got two sides to him, just as you've got yourself, though sometimes one's to be seen, and sometimes the other. And he's always laughing at those who can't see the whole of him--just as you said the sea was laughing for the same reason. It's the same joke, the Fool's and the sea's; and it's your own joke, too; for it was the other side of yourself you saw at last, the one that was hidden away."
Except © 1983, 1986 Farrar Straus Giroux
Review and page © 2002 Diane Wilkes