AUTHOR =BARRY JONSBERG
GENRE =IMAGINATION, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS
INTEREST LEVEL =YEARS 11, 12
This is not an easy read and is the sort of novel that really pushes the reader; but the rewards of the reading challenge are great. One of the challenges is the narrative voice: for it is Leah, an elderly woman in a nursing home, who tells much of the story and this is an unusual perspective for a teen novel. Leah’s story about her childhood is quite sad: her father committed suicide when she was 5 (and she found his body in the barn) and her mother was rather cruel in her dedication to her religion, so much so that poor Leah has to give up her one and only friend. Yet Leah herself is not sad, in fact her sharp, often humouroius voice is one of the delights of the book. She has come to accept her life and has reached a point where she is happy to speak her mind, even if it may seem cruel to 16 yo Carly (who has come to interview her). The relationship these two develop is another of the books real strengths.
The structure of the book is unusual, starting with “the end” and moving to “the beginning” – and with these changes are altered perspectives, which may present another challenge to young readers. However, there is so much to enjoy in this novel: Jonsberg’s writing is often quite beautiful and Leah’s observations on life around her are often quite pointed and detailed. By novel’s end, the reader’s empathy will definitely be with Leah and the one true love of her life, Adam.
Readers may enjoy learning more about the author’s inspiration in writing this novel, taken from his website. The subject matter and approach of this novel make it more likely to be enjoyed by more mature readers who will no dount be moved by the experience. For the novel encourages the reader to reflect on the power of books and the power of the imagination.
Selected as a Notable book for the CBCA Book of the Year 2012 (Older Readers)
Recommended (dma) ***