My goodness. I hardly know where to begin to describe this book. I loved it. And yet there were so many things that normally would not appeal to me. It is in essence a coming of age story. Those I love. Beth Weeks is fifteen years old, struggling to grow up, to be normal, to get a handle on all those things you need to at that age.
But Beth does not live in a normal family; she does not live in a normal community. Her life is harsh - harsh in ways one might expect, living as she does on a farm where every day is marked by chores and the family's struggle to survive. The reader can accept, for example, that sometimes on a farm killing animals is an unpleasant but necessary task. Less acceptable is the unnecessary cruelty Beth's father inflicts not only on his animals but on other people as well. Beth's father is an awful person. His actions are frightening and extreme, from the unreasonable feud over the neighbour's fence, to the treatment of his animals and to the sexual exploitation of his daughter.
At first I was sympathetic to Beth's mother - her scrapbook containing recipes and remedies and snippets of her life was delightful - but we learn, as Beth does, that not only is the mother aware of her husband's incestuous exploitation of Beth, she is jealous of it and does nothing to stop it. She herself was also a victim of her own father's sexual abuse. She copes by talking to her dead mother.
Virtually every character in the book, of which there are many, is flawed in some way. There is mental illness aplenty, birth defects, self-mutilation, bestiality and Tourette's Syndrome.
There is blood and violence, death and mystery, and heart-stopping terror.
But in all the darkness and misery, the author has interwoven splashes of colour and beauty and tenderness. Blue flax flowers, painted turtles, butterflies, the rhythm of milking, butter cups in winter, holding hands.
The book is a fast, short read - less than three hundred pages. Yet it is rich with detail, multi-layered with myth and metaphor. While not normally a fan of magic realism, I was intrigued by the coyote/trickster mystery. I found the book both disturbing and enchanting. Ultimately, I loved it.
This is my thirteenth book by a female Canadian author and my twenty-sixth book in total read for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, Eh?
Released 4 yrs ago (1/17/2009 UTC) at York Avenue in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
on the parking pay station outside 390 York Avenue.
This book was released for the Never Judge a Book by its Cover release challenge. The theme for this week (week 3) is food depicted on the cover. So I think that the apples, pear and cup of tea qualify (not to mention the food on the hoof, so to speak, in the cow and the chicken, maybe even the grasshopper!).
I hope the finder enjoys this wonderful book by a Canadian author.