Tuesday, July 8, 2014

local folks spreading a love for books and a review of Lisa O'Donnell's Closed Doors

In my wanderings around town (seriously, treadmill, you broke less than a year after you arrived as a replacement for one that broke in the same fashion???  wonder how long the next replacement, arriving tomorrow, will last), I've found two Little Free Libraries.  I'd donated a few books to the first one I'd found...duplicates, of course, since I have a book-hoarding problem.  I feel oddly proud of donating one of my two copies of THE BEST BOOK EVER, neither was my original but I still have an odd attachment to any copy of The Monster at the End of this Book.  I did talk to the Stewards of both "libraries" (both are in the same Women's Club) and told them I applaud the effort to: 1) encourage reading and 2) encourage reading of physical books (Monster can't possibly work the same in digital form).

Moving on....book review time:

Michael, age 11, likes to listen at doors, eavesdropping on his Mom, Dad, and Grandma when they talk about adult things.  He also likes soccer and is a bit uncertain about girls.  One night, his beloved mother comes home one night, badly beaten.  Listening at doors tells him it was more than a fall and he is asked to keep the story that he's told, a simplified version of the truth told, a secret.  He's good at secrets. Things continue to grow complicated as the town eyes his father as the culprit behind his mother' beaten face and his mother struggles to move beyond the truth of her rape.  Grown-up difficulties and secrets too big to understand accompany the more traditional confusion of being a pre-adolescent in a small Scottish community.

I'll give this a solid 4 out of 5 stars.  Michael is an endearing narrator, honest in his telling of the facts as he sees them, but definitely showing a growing boy's bias in his characterization of those around him.  While I got a bit tired of some topics (his obsession with "keepie-uppies," his soccer ball trick, and a potential children's talent show), I suppose the issues he dwells on make him a pretty realistic pre-teen.  The novel deals with very difficult topics and shows an appropriately complex journey for both the mother and the other family members in the wake of the rape.  The community's reaction to the unfolding story also felt both real and, at times, upsetting.  In a different vein, I also liked the portrayal of Michael's utter confusion and uncertainty when it comes to girls.

(Here's a link to my review of O'Donnell's prior novel, The Death of Bees.  Both were provided to me in the form of advance reader's copies by the publisher.)