Tag: General Fiction

the Story of a Boy

by Richard Jeffries

Marvelous (but also disturbing) book from the 1800’s- others have described it as something like Tom Sawyer or Lord of the Flies and I heartily agree. It also reminded me a lot of Ernest Thompson Seton’s Two Little Savages. Bevis is the son of a landowner in rural England- and he pretty much runs around doing whatever he pleases. When the story opens, it drives straight into his efforts to build a raft out of odds and ends- I was baffled for a few pages wondering who this kid was, where he lived, what the heck he was doing, but then caught up in his unwavering intent to find items that would work to make what he wanted- because I’m a bit like that myself, when building something or other for the garden. After making the raft he goes on to rig a little (and very awkward it sounds) sailboat, he and his friend carve a boomerang, make a matchlock gun (!!), practice with bows and arrows, shoot targets with their various weapons, learn how to swim, roam around hunting rabbits and birds with their dog, stage a battle with a bunch of other boys- taking sides and planning strategies the whole nine yards, and so on and on and on.

The part I remember best is middle to the end, where Bevis and his friend Mark build a camp on an island in a lake near home, lie to their parents that they’re at someone else’s house for a visit, and live rough for a week or so. They fish, hunt small game, make pitiful attempts at cooking over a fire (with supplies filched from home like flour, potatoes, matches etc), construct a sundial, track animals pretending everything is exotic- the other kids trying to find their secret place are ‘savages’, the rabbits are ‘kangaroos’ the wood doves are ‘parrots’ you get the idea. They have to solve a little mystery of what is coming into their camp when they’re away stealing food, and another about what animal makes a wave just under the water’s surface (I thought it would be the otter but it was a type of diving bird). I was very sad when they shot the otter. It really is a story from a different time- the kids live in casual abundance- the pages are swarming with beautiful descriptions of nature, lush plant growth, myraid small wild things- which the boys delight in tracking, chasing and killing. They shoot birds for their feathers with no remorse, and are really proud of the otter skin. When they finally go home everyone praises their accomplishments and the father teaches them how to improve their shooting skills (this went on for way too many pages in my opinion). I was rather fascinated by the descriptions of sailing, though. Amazed at how ingenious the kids were at making things from observation and experiment alone. Appalled at how often they beat and kicked their dog to make it behave, and how they ignored the abject poverty the workmen’s children lived in, right alongside them on the farm but their suffering unseen.

It’s lively, full of adventure, boy’s squabbles and petty cruelties, and the richness of nature. I found it a compelling read, even though some things bothered me.

Some quotes I marked- the boys’ explanation of hindsight: “That’s just the thing”, said Bevis. “You sail forty thousand miles to find a thing, and when you get there you can see you left it at home.”

Their surprise at seeing a yellowed fern leaf, where they were sure it was an animal in the grass: when intent on one subject the mind is ready to construe everything as relating to it, and disallows the plain evidence of the senses.

The father’s appraisal of how important it was for them to learn things by experience:

He considered it best that they should teach themselves, and find out little by little where they were wrong.  Besides which he knew that the greatest pleasure is always obtained from inferior and incomplete instruments. Present a perfect yacht, a beautiful horse, a fine gun, or anything complete to a beginner, and the edge of his enjoyment is dulled with too speedy possession. The best way to learn to ride is on a rough pony, to sail in an open ill-built boat, because by encountering difficulties the learner comes to understand and appreciate the perfect instrument, and to wield it with fifty times more power than if he had been born to the purple.

I have a copy of this book on my e-reader (it was a pleasure!)

Rating: 3/5
465 pages, 1882

by Laura Zigman

This book is about a middle aged woman whose writing career has taken a nosedive. She and her husband are estranged but still living in the same house (they can’t afford to divorce yet), her teenage son barely talks to her anymore, her finances are in trouble, she’s still recovering from the loss of her parents while her best friend is battling cancer. It’s a lot. Fraught with a sense of loss and unease, she starts carrying around the family dog in a baby sling, finding comfort and reassurance in its constant presence. People comment on this- when they find out the dog isn’t injured or suffering itself from anxiety, they turn judgmental (one group at a dog park even accuses her of animal abuse). It’s all written in a very lighthearted, wry style. I read the first few chapters with interest and amusement, but then found I didn’t care much to pick it up again. Skipped and skimmed through several more chapters before giving up. I just didn’t find the characters relatable, although their circumstances certainly could happen to anyone. The strangeness of the Montessori school (surely it’s exaggerated?) and the weird houseguests who dress up as large puppets all the time, baffled me. I also puzzled over conversations constantly: do people actually talk like this to each other? Am I the one struggling to make a connection here? Feels like it, but I have to shrug and move on. This one’s obviously not for me. Not sure why, as it certainly resonated with plenty other readers.

Rating: Abandoned
288 pages, 2020

More opinions: Sam Still Reading
anyone else?

by Oliver La Farge

Set in the year 1915, in the Navajo nation. Laughing Boy is a young man attending a large gathering where there are dances, horse races, trading and gambling. He’s excited to compete with his favorite pony and make some good trades, but something momentous happens when Slim Girl catches his eye. He’s fascinated by her bold behavior, when she speaks to him directly (something a proper girl would never do) and on impulse, they decide soon after to run off and get married. Laughing Boy hears rumors from others and faces criticism from his family about Slim Girl- she’s bad they say. She’s not a proper Navajo. He doesn’t understand what they’re talking about. Slim Girl had been taken away by the Americans when she was a little girl, sent to a boarding school where her language and culture were forbidden (to put it mildly). She is full of bitterness against the Americans and desperately wants to rejoin The People. She sees her union with Laughing Boy as a way back in, and for a time, this seems to work. They set up a little household together on the outskirts of a small dusty American town, where Slim Girl has a job she doesn’t want to leave, quite yet. I was surprised after closing the final pages, to think back and realize how much Slim Girl reminded me of Scarlett in some aspects! She wanted security, wanted to earn and save up money so she and Laughing Boy could return with wealth to live among the Navajo among respect and admiration. Unfortunately, her means to that goal were also her undoing.

There were many parts of this story I really enjoyed. Reading of this young couple’s determination to flaunt the norms- Laughing Boy ignoring all the whispers about his wife and refusing to believe any ill of her, certain they were wrong and that he could make a happy home. Slim Girl’s stubborn desire to learn skills that were taken for granted by other Navajo women and she struggled with- mainly weaving, but other things as well. Their joy in each other, and the complications that arose when doubts crept into their relationship, becoming a gap they struggled to repair. The one thing I felt dubious about was the casual mention of Slim Girl’s years in the boarding school. While it was obvious she was somewhat traumatized and turned callous by that experience, I felt like it could have been dealt with in much greater depth. Perhaps it was written this way though, because most of the story is told from Laughing Boy’s perspective, and he never really understood what an impact that experience had on her.

This book won a Pulitzer in 1930. Sadly, it’s one of those that I feel dismayed about, when looking up more info after I’m done reading. The author is not Native American, he wrote from outside the culture, though he spent several years working in Navajo territory, and admired them greatly. But it sounds like he got a lot of it wrong: American Indians in Children’s Literature. Regardless, I still think it’s a good story, I’m just disappointed it’s got false portrayals. (And I would really like to know what aspects of the culture were inaccurate here, but I haven’t done the info digging to find out yet).

Rating: 4/5
302 pages, 1929

More opinions:
The Blue Bookcase
anyone else?

by Gail Honeyman

I really liked this book, and read it fairly quickly, although as some readers point out, it does have questionable inconsistencies. I didn’t really notice them while I was reading though, as I felt engrossed in the character’s viewpoint, interested to find out what had happened to her, and what her future would turn into. Rather like in Convenience Store Woman, the main character here is an eccentric who doesn’t fit into social norms. The comparison ends there, though. While I felt pretty sure that Keiko Furukura was autistic, this story is written as if the character’s oddities are due to her upbringing. I’m not sure if the author meant for her to have a mental illness or cognitive difference that her misfortunes exacerbated, or if she was suggesting that trauma was the main cause. Simply put: Eleanor is odd. She speaks formally, has rigid habits, avoids social gatherings, has huge gaps in her understanding of popular culture, and doesn’t recognize when others are making jokes at her expense. She’s fairly good at her office job and keeps telling herself that everything is just fine.

But it’s not. Eleanor is avoiding thinking about her painful past- and doesn’t want to discuss it when others bring things up or ask questions. She only happens to meet her co-worker Raymond from IT when he comes to fix her computer one day, and by chance they’re both outside when an elderly man collapses on the street and needs emergency assistance. They help the stranger, visit him in the hospital together, later start meeting for lunch, gradually become friends- and things start to change in Eleanor’s life. She wants to learn how to fit in, to maintain a facade of normalcy if she can, but her attempts are often downright funny and awkward. And her stress and fear when memories of the past arise, make the reader very sad. I’m glad this book didn’t dwell on the horrific incidents of her childhood. Too many stories about abused children go into a lot of detail that’s difficult to read. This story instead, is about what happened to an adult who survived, how it affected her adult life, and how she tried to change things, with the help of some kind people who looked past her weirdness and turned out to be good friends.

It moves really quickly through some aspects of her recovery, and I wouldn’t have minded the story being longer to give that more of a proper timeframe. I did think the whole scenario of Eleanor fixating on a performing musician as a love interest who would solve all her problems, very strange. It didn’t make sense to me until much later in the book, why she would have that kind of unrealistic, almost obsessive crush on a stranger. On the other hand, I really loved the inclusion of a cat in the story, who shows up near the end. It made me smile so much.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5
328 pages, 2017

translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori

by Sayaka Murata

I really liked this book. I was surprised how short it was, so concise. I didn’t get far when I immediately agreed with the conclusion of many other readers: the main character, Keiko Furukura, appears to be on the autism spectrum. She’s always struggled with social interactions and her behavior as a child often drew concern and criticism from other parents. She sees her actions as perfectly logical, and doesn’t understand why her family wants to “cure” her. At eighteen, she gets a job in a convenience store that seems to fit her perfectly. She likes the order in the store, the clearly laid-out rules for tasks and what to say to customers. She’s pleased to have a place where she knows exactly what to do and how to fit in. Even parrots the phrases and inflections of others around her, and sneaks peeks at brand names on her female co-workers’ clothing tags, to figure out casual wear. She’s relatively happy working there, for over a decade.

But family and friends from school- all grown now and with their own husbands and children, ask her uncomfortable questions when they visit together. When will she get a real job? or a boyfriend? Keiko doesn’t understand why she needs those things. She has no interest in relationships with men. But she feels that this is another area where she needs to fit in, or be further ostracized. So she takes in a rather shiftless fellow as a border- thinking the appearance of having a man in her life will satisfy others. At first this seems to work out. But then things start changing in her life, more expectations are thrown at her, and her neatly ordered life is no longer so tidy.

So glad I read this one. It made me laugh and think and I only wish it had been longer. Not only did it present a from-the-inside look at one woman’s quiet and nonconforming lifestyle (why shouldn’t she keep her routine and job, even though others looked down on it?), but one of the other characters seemed to be Hikikomori, I don’t know if he was supposed to be one, but he reminded me of them.

I’m reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine next, which seems to have a similar kind of misfit character. Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5
164 pages, 2016

by Abigail Ulman

Short stories, about young women- teenagers, or early twenties. All of them, far as I could tell, immigrants or students here in the US from abroad. I picked this one at random because the catalog said it was set in San Francisco, though some are in other places- Philadelphia, New York- in one story we’re never told where the girls are, because they don’t know themselves. I don’t quite know how to describe these. They felt very real and present- texting and smart phones, gender issues, human trafficking- and yet reminded me acutely of what it was like to be young, to be a university student, even though my experience in San Francisco was not like this (I didn’t go to clubs and bars, was never part of the dating scene, ha). I’m trying to figure out why these stories affected me so- sticking in my mind even though I found some of them distasteful (when described sex in too much detail). They depict girls and young women who are shallow, thoughtless, and make bad decisions- and yet they’re also victims of a system, of society and expectations and boredom. They can show streaks of kindness, or sudden insightful moments that seem beyond their years. In brief:

“Jewish History”- In history class students are asked to share experiences from Holocaust survivors in their families. Anya (from Russia) doesn’t have a story to tell. Then at home her parents remark on how she should appreciate what she’s got, as they went without and suffered for so many years, before they could emigrate. So next day Anya tells about the hard time her family went through (including her mother’s miscarriage), but is shut down in class- her story of suffering doesn’t count, it’s from the wrong era.

“Chagall’s Wife”- Sascha unexpectedly runs into her middle-aged teacher outside of school- sees him in a cafe and approaches to say hello. They end up spending the entire afternoon together- viewing art in a museum, going to a movie theater- and in the end, the reader suspects something else might happen, as he invites her to “go somewhere else”.

“The Withdrawl Method”- Claire finds out she’s pregnant, even though she thought she and her boyfriend were being careful. She bounces around between different casual friends- sharing her plan to get an abortion- and their responses are so varied. Flippant, cautionary, dismissive, angsty. She temporarily latches onto a different guy- met totally at random- he’s very levelheaded and kind about it, but seems a little confused by her. (I didn’t really get the point of this one).

“Warm-Ups”- four young Russian gymnasts are chosen to go with their coach to a conference in America, where they will perform to show off the skills he’s promoting. It seems like the opportunity of a lifetime, and Vera begs her parents to let her go- expenses are covered! But when they finally get there- barely able to speak or read English- she and the other pre-teen girls end up locked in a room that they suspect isn’t a hotel, and their coach has disappeared in a different taxi.

“Same Old Same As”- Ramona’s in therapy after suffering a bad injury from a space heater that caught fire and burned her leg. She tells the therapist about a moment when her step-father helped her out of the bath during her recovery care, and how uncomfortable it made her feel, and then starts describing the incident to others as sexual abuse. The story gets spread around school, she’s shocked at the amount of attention she gets, and other girls start sharing their stories with her- of men touching them inappropriately, or flashers, boys who casually convinced them to do things they didn’t really want to (sometimes in front of others), a cousin of a friend who was date raped, etc. She realizes that her experience was not unique- but also that hers wasn’t as serious? and then things escalate when a friend’s parent reports Ramona’s incident to the school- she finds herself at a meeting to determine if they should call child protection services.

“The Pretty One”- This girl is suddenly captivated by a guy she sees in a club. She finds out his name, his friends, where he works, and convinces him to date her. Even though they have nothing in common, she forces herself into his group of friends, his interests, etc- trying so hard to make it work when it’s obvious it never will.

“Head to Toe”- Two friends start to feel uninterested in all the usual parties, girl drama and shopping sprees. They ask their parents to take them back to a horse camp they’d been to as kids together. They’re put in a cabin with three younger girls- nine and ten-year-olds (which is a huge age difference when you’re fourteen). They enjoy riding the horses, and snub the younger girls until find them fighting and in tears after a game of “telling secrets.” The older girls smooth things over in what I thought was a very thoughtful manner, but later when they’re relating it to their own friends back home, they are completely dismissive and then fall right back into the party scene. I liked this one, until the end of it.

“Plus One”- I didn’t get this. At all. Girl has been writing a blog forever, gets an offer on a book deal. Has trouble writing and starts to feel terrified of the deadline. So she decides to get pregnant so she’ll have an excuse not to work. She convinces a friend- who is gay of all things- to be the father- and then has the baby, against everyone’s advice to stop this awful plan. And then her whole life changes when the baby arrives. The ending relieved me (I was worried it would take a different turn) but also left me wondering: why?

“Your Charm Won’t Help You Here”- Foreign student from London who’s been living in San Francisco, is travelling back there after a vacation somewhere else, and gets detained at the airport by homeland security. They don’t tell her much but it becomes apparent she’s overstayed her time as a student and is suspected of trying to actually immigrate. She spends hours being questioned (in a maddeningly circular conversation) and then is detained overnight in jail with a Russian woman who is even more confused than she is. Returned to the airport the following morning, not sure where she’s going to end up, the whole thing baffling, stressful, frightening and surreal.

I’m leaving out so many details- these were like little snippets of life, and they interlaced in a loose manner- a character from one story would refer to someone in another- as if they knew each other outside these pages. I kind of want to read some of them over again, even though there were parts that made me uncomfortable. I did feel like some of the stories dropped off suddenly- did Sascha go with her teacher home to his apartment? was the ending of “Warm-Ups” really heading where I thought it was?- but I suspect the author did that to maintain a sense of tension, which I surely felt.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
354 pages, 2015

More opinions: Books Are My Favorite and Best
anyone else?

by Faith Erin Hicks

Maggie’s been homeschooled with her three older brothers. Mainly by her mother who recently left them, leaving the teens with their police officer father. Now Maggie’s starting public high school, with all kinds of new experiences to navigate. Not the least of which is how to make friends- the few kids who talk to her appear to be shunned by the others, and there’s history between her brothers and a group of popular jocks that she doesn’t know about. Her new friends have punk hairstyles, piercings and a style that might look threatening- yet they’re cheerfully friendly, unlike the polished-looking popular kids. Her twin brothers are annoyed that everyone expects them to still do everything together, and now they’re fighting all the time. The oldest brother is into theater, and pretty good at it (I liked that). Maggie’s also got this problem of a ghost that follows her around- she often walks through the graveyard- and I was really let down when the storyline didn’t complete that part. The ghost never spoke, never seemed to accept the help Maggie was offering it (based on a wild guess at what it might be wanting). Oh, and there’s zombies too- in a school play her brother performs in- and I don’t really care for zombie or ghost stories for some reason. But I liked the artwork, especially the early sketches in the back of the book. I do think the original title fit better (seen in preliminary cover sketches): The Education of Maggie McKay. The story was pretty good, but it left too many things unanswered and I wished for just a tad more depth with how Maggie was handling her new friendships. Maybe a sequel is coming that will address those things.

Rating: 3/5
224 pages, 2012

by Susan Wiggs

One of the items for the reading challenge I’m doing is ‘read a book from your home country or state’ and I looked for books from my library that were set in San Francisco. I suppose this one is considered chick lit? It does have some romance but light on that, and a bit of a mystery, all tied neatly together. I would say the writing style is lighthearted, even if the themes tend to be serious. It’s about a young woman who faces sudden tragedy when her mother and boyfriend die in the same accident. She ditches her high-paying but stressful job in Sonoma County to move back to the city and care for her ailing grandfather, taking over her mother’s struggling bookstore. There’s a lot in the story about how hard she works to keep the bookstore open in site of piling debts and expensive repairs needed on the old building. Made me feel kinda guilty for how many times I’ve gone into a bookstore and only bought a few items, or none at all! Added to the headache of how to manage the bookstore’s finances are her worries about her grandfather’s health, and his struggles with memory loss. I thought his symptoms were due to Alzheimer’s at first, but there’s a sudden turn of events at the end of the story that reveals something else was going on, too. Her coworkers in the bookstore are supportive and charming, and she feels attracted to the “hammer for hire” guy who spends weeks doing repairs on the building, becoming a regular presence- but assumes he’s married (has a cute daughter who loves reading) and thus off-limits. Meanwhile she hopes getting a hot bestselling author to do an event for the bookstore will boost sales, but things get more exciting (and complicated) when the handsome author starts asking her out. It seems too good to be true (and yeah, he was).

Well, it was a good enough read. Some events in the story I saw coming a mile away, a few took me by surprise. Reading a novel set in a city I’m familiar with was fun, although the environs this character inhabited weren’t the area of San Francisco I know well. There’s quite a bit of the city’s history woven into the story as well, as some items that were hidden generations ago are found during repairs, and some family history is uncovered. Past love stories are told in brief, at the same time that the current one is slowly unfolding. Of course there’s lots of bookish love, too- quotes and favorite titles and memories of tidbits from books the characters share with each other. Which was lovely, but of the few books mentioned that were new to me, I didn’t feel interested to add any to my TBR. At all.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
368 pages, 2020

More opinions:
Annette’s Book Spot
Lark Writes
anyone else?

by D.E. Stevenson

I’m not familiar with this author, and I’m afraid this book I picked up at random somewhere is probably not her best work- I think it was the last one she wrote. It’s sequel to Gerald and Elizabeth, and since I haven’t read that one, it was slow going at first because I didn’t have a previously built up interest in the characters. Gerald is the main one in this story- a young man who works in an important shipyard and has been helping with security measures there. He goes off on vacation to the highlands of Scotland, where he stays in a curious old hunting lodge with the landed family and some other guests. They are going out on hunts to cull the local deer herd, which has grown larger than the land can support. Gerald is encouraged to go along and given opportunities to make a good shot but he really doesn’t want to shoot any deer, which nobody else understands. He shares stories of having shot lions in Africa, from necessity, and how unpleasant he found that- even while the younger boys listening are in awe at his “bravery” and want to hear all about how “fierce” the lion was (it was starving). Gerald is interested seeing how the deer are managed, but later he’d rather spend time at the lodge, being infatuated with the daughter of the household, Phil. He’s a very nice, mild-mannered and reasonable man, so doesn’t get along well with one of the guests Oliver, who’s a tedious braggart. Creates a nice bit of conflict, though never on Gerald’s part.

Honestly the first part of this book was very slow for me- I had little interest and was about to toss it as a DNF- then the deer stalking began and I found it a lot more interesting. I think that’s the best part of the whole thing, although a lot of readers (who are D.E Stevenson fans) feel opposite. Unfortunately the end kind of dives into a different kind of story- a young man in the hunting party gets accosted by strangers in a fog, then Gerald himself is kidnapped, apparently by members of a gang who want information on security measures at the shipyard. The whole rest of the book is about them trying to rescue Gerald, deal with the gang, and solve the little mystery of who attacked the younger man. There’s actually a scene where everyone is sitting around a room discussing the possibilities and some of them accuse each other! Then at the very end, it suddenly turns into a love story- the beautiful daughter Phil admitting that she likes Gerald in that way after all- and marriages are arranged (there’s another couple with a suddenly admitted love interest). Rather too hasty in my opinion. But then, I get the sense that as a whole, this type of book wasn’t written for me.

I was mostly disappointed that the stalkers never got the one “hummel” deer they were particularly trying to cull- it was a male deer without antlers and they didn’t want it passing on its faulty traits. There was a scene where they almost got it, but something startled the deer and it ran straight at the hidden men in a fright, getting too close so fast they were taken aback and didn’t shoot. I really kept expecting a final scene where this hummel would leap out and someone would take the chance to shoot it, maybe it would even trample the gang members into the heather, wouldn’t that be fitting, and it seemed the kind of story where that might happen- but it didn’t.

I did like the few bookish references- when Gerald is injured and has to stay abed, Phil brings him Jane Austen books from the local library. And when Gerald tells his story of lion-hunting, he mentions that he had referred to an old book which had belong to his father, it was The Man-Eaters of Tsavo by Colonel J.H. Patterson. He had not read it for years, but it had fascinated him when he was a boy. That’s one on my own TBR, if I ever find a copy!

Rating: 2/5
208 pages, 1971

by Elizabeth Graver

This book took me completely by surprise. In how close to home it was. I assumed from the jacket blurbs it was going to be about a troubled kid and a beekeeper- had no idea there was an element of mental illness in there, too. Warning for possible SPOILERS below.

At first this is a story about a mother moving with her pre-teen daughter from New York City to the countryside where she hopes for a fresh start. The daughter, Eva, has been caught shoplifting a number of times, she’s definitely got an attitude and maybe something else is going on. Her mother Miriam has to work long hours to support them, so Eva is left to her own devices- there’s a babysitter but she goes out bike riding and exploring alone. Finds a small farm nearby where a man puts out honey jars by the road for sale, on the honor system. You can guess what happens. Then Eva sneaks into the field where the hives are kept, and meets the beekeeper. She finds his work fascinating, starts pestering him with questions, hanging around, wanting to know more. He shows her things when he opens a hive, in spite of feeling uneasy about it. Meanwhile there’s chapters showing the mother’s point of view, and they weave into the past, telling what happened when Miriam first met Eva’s father. At first I thought this part so dull in comparison- personally I much preferred reading about how the bees were tended, and I related a lot more to the reclusive beekeeper, his reasons for settling on his grandmother’s farm leaving behind a lucrative desk job. . . but I soon found how relevant the backstory of Eva’s parents was.

SKIP this paragraph to avoid SPOILERS: her father had a mental illness, which he failed to disclose to Miriam when they first met, fell in love quickly and had a baby without much planning. He hadn’t had a bad episode in a long time and wanting to be better, thought he’d put it all behind him, until things slowly started unraveling. When Miriam finally realized something was seriously wrong, they were at a crisis point. This all felt way too familiar to me, as a reader- someone in my family has bipolar disorder, so I knew exactly what they were talking about it and a lot of it rang true to me. How the symptoms sneak up on you, subtly getting worse, but you don’t want it to be the mental illness so you don’t see it for what it is at first.. And after you’re always questioning: is my teen just being a teenager? is this normal mood swings? or is it a manic episode.

So I found the book really compelling, even though some of it was uneven, sometimes the dialog a bit awkward, the accident at the end a bit predictable, but not as shocking to me as in say, The Fire Pony. However the ending dropped off abruptly. I expected a bit more resolution- I was glad that Miriam finally told Eva more about her father, but she didn’t really explain the illness, and there was no hint of them finding out the answer to the big question: does Eva have it too. I suppose that’s realistic after all- you wouldn’t immediately tell an eleven-year-old who’s ready to find reasons to distrust you already, that you suspect she could have a serious mental health issue- but still I wanted to know more.

I liked this well enough I’ll look out for more by the same author.

Rating: 3/5
264 pages, 1999


All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it


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