When searching for exquisite clothes from bygone decades, the renowned Madeleine Kirsh is the foremost expert on the subject. As expected, her store, C. Madeleine’s, on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami, is home to an extensive collection of dresses, purses, shirts, and shoes. But tucked among the racks are also the stories of the people who once owned these pieces. The narratives are wrought with beauty, intrigue, and hardship. Over the years, Kirsh has heard, by her own estimate, hundreds of these stories. These accounts provided inspiration for the tales found in her new work of fiction, The Truth of Time.

The Truth of Time pays homage to the notion of fate. There is a sense that each character bringing in an article of clothing or jewelry for evaluation by the protagonist, who shares the same name and profession as the author, is destined to be inspired by Madeleine’s grace and wisdom. The characters are all seeking some form of guidance or closure, and she always delivers. (To be fair, Madeleine derives a good deal of her wisdom from predictive dreams and being clairvoyant.) But without ever knowing or openly acknowledging it, Madeleine herself also needs direction. She often gets a strange feeling that she has met her clients before. Unexpectedly and without fanfare, a Tibetan woman named Tenzin enters Madeleine’s life. Tenzin quickly becomes a spiritual advisor, pushing Madeleine to believe in reincarnation and to become the keeper of a prayer wheel that has supposedly been passed between Tenzin and Madeleine for many generations. Though the book itself is fairly short at just 150 pages, it valiantly endeavors to prove that kismet is always at play and is the result of many lifetimes of experiences.

Indisputably, The Truth of Time explores a number of religious and philosophical questions. Kirsh is surprisingly graceful and captivating when writing monologues about unpleasant topics like the death of a spouse and the crime of being a Jew during the Holocaust. The characters are very human and elicit an emotional response from the reader. However, it is with the character of Madeleine that the reader is unable to make any sort of connection. Madeleine is a beautiful, clairvoyant, wise, friendly, compassionate and brave character, who is borderline bossy at times. Simply put, Madeleine is too perfect. One can only guess how many lifetimes it would take to acquire enough good karma to be reincarnated as Madeleine.

With this new release, Kirsh has proved her mettle in the world of fiction and demonstrated her expertise when confronting delicate topics. In the interest of learning more about this multitalented author, GALO Magazine approached Kirsh with a few questions.

GALO: You initially launched a career based on your interior designing skills. What was the reasoning behind your transition from interior design to vintage clothes?

Madeleine Kirsh: It was simple. My mother, who was a noted interior decorator, always loved fashion. The one thing she insisted on was quality and great fabrications. This was easily available in vintage versus many of the mass produced products today.

GALO: Where did you learn everything you know about vintage clothing? Did you have a mentor?

MK: Fashion has always been a passion of mine. Since I was a little girl in the 1960s, it was something I loved. My mentor was my grandmother who had been a wedding gown designer. We would spend hours going through the latest magazines and she would teach me about the different fabrics and patterns. Second on the mentoring list was again my mother. She had a large retail furniture store and would take me with her on buying trips. We always found time to go to the leading fashion stores where she explained the difference between designers. We had a ball. I also spend many hours researching different styles and designers. It is a practice I continue to this day. I truly believe the history of fashion is the window to the future.

GALO: You are listed as an editor for a book published in 2006 called Antique Trader Vintage Clothing Price Guide. Describe your first experience in the publishing world.

MK: I loved doing the Price Guide but it was much more difficult than I anticipated. There was no room for error and it took me and two staff members almost four months to verify our findings and complete the work.

GALO: What motivated you to write your new fiction book, The Truth of Time?

MK: For years I have been hearing the stories involving the people who brought me their items and the history behind many of the pieces. None of the stories in the book are actually based on these tales, but they did inspire me to create original ones with the same warmth and passion I had been told over the years.

GALO: In The Truth of Time, a woman brings in some clothes bearing fake designer labels. Does this actually happen in your store and how frequently?

MK: Forgeries are a way of life. We are very aware of the problem and are very cautious about the items we allow in the store. If there is any question about authenticity, we will not accept the questionable piece.

GALO: In the book, there are a lot of references to Tibetan culture. Have you seen or do you own a prayer wheel? Have you eaten tsampa, a Tibetan staple food? What is the source of your knowledge of Tibetan culture?

MK: I have been fascinated by Tibetan culture for a number of years but am far from an expert on the subject. When I first started writing the book, I did acquire a prayer wheel, which is proudly displayed on my mantle. It is not nearly as elaborate as the one Tenzin passed on to Madeleine. I also did have the opportunity to taste tsampa many years ago in a restaurant in New York. Being very weight conscious, I would be reluctant to add it to my normal diet.

GALO: In the book, the protagonist shares your name. What other qualities do you share?

MK: Madeleine in the book is very much like me. I consider myself very spiritual and truly believe in a superior being and an afterlife.

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