Saturday, November 24, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different

Instead of picking up Disco for the Departed, I realized last night that I was kind of mysteried out--surprising, considering that The Full Cupboard of Life, while ostensibly a detective novel, had barely a mystery to be seen. Still, I wasn't quite in the mood for Dr. Siri quite yet. So I started something new.

A Gift Upon the Shore, by M.K. Wren, falls into the category of end-of-the-world books. After I read Life As We Knew It last year, Library Lady (who appears to be my alter ego when it comes to things like nun books and end-of-the-world novels) suggested this one to me. I checked it out about a month ago--I abuse the renewal system) and I just opened it up idly last night and started poking around.

And somehow, I'm hooked. I'm not quite sure why--I'm still deep in the exposition of the story. The first chapter is full of introducing the names of characters I don't know yet, and one is rarely hooked at that point in a book. The backstory part (it alternates between the main character as an old woman and her story when she was young) is still just barely ramping up. The end of the world is still a little ways away; I suspect it'll be an ending not with a bang but a whimper. It's one of those books that doesn't drive you intensely through it--you're not drilling toward the end. But each paragraph impels you gently but firmly into the next one. It's not that you're compulsively turning pages so much as strung along, sentence by sentence, until fifty pages have gone by and you hardly know it.

Also, it takes place in Willamette Valley, where I've actually visited, which is kind of exciting. Not that I couldn't picture the landscape if I hadn't been there, but there's something more real about a place you've seen and been and breathed in.

For the record, I'll also point out that I read a YA book called Dorp Dead this morning. It was an interesting little fable about isolating yourself from the world--about an orphan who goes to live with a ladder-maker, and finds himself at first comforted and later discomfited by the man's highly structured and rigid life. The afterword in my copy of the book points out that, at its original publication in 1965, it was a part of a groundbreaking moment in children's books; it was the first time people started writing books in which the world was revealed to be not always kind and perfect. It's funny to think that this was ever a transition we had to make.

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