America has never been a place for fairies. There aren’t ancient traditions of little people among Americans (at least, among non-Native Americans). American children were never taught to leave milk out for the creatures, or not to listen to the noises on a dark night.
America’s a place of realism, of journey literature and settlement, of independence and frontier mentality. It’s a place of racial amalgamation, of half-remembered and half-made-up traditions.
So when you do what John Crowley did, and combine the classic American novel with the fairy tale, you get something very strange.
You get a family with one foot in America, one foot in progress and change, one foot in new architectural styles and in the cycles of the cities, and the other foot in fairy tales, in magic and fairies, in strangeness and charms. You get something filled with the eerie, where American independence breeds with semi-religious faith in the power of fairies.
Nothing is quite what it at first seems to be, in this book. Re-read even the last chapter, and you find the book is something completely different. Strange rhymes surface, and the book seems to remember itself just as the characters remember one another.
It’s American, but it’s something else too. It’s something that makes you suspicious when your flower pots are overturned in the morning, suspicious of more than the neighborhood cat. It makes you wonder when you’re walking in the woods, out in the country, and you hear something odd. It makes you question the surface of the world.