Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Gap Creek

Image result for gap creek"Gap Creek" by Robert Morgan, is the story of a young girl named Julie, set in the Appalachian high country in the final years of the nineteenth century. We are introduced to her when her brother dies a horrible, quite graphic death in her arms. She soon loses her father as well as is burdened with assuming the responsibility of her father in taking care of the family farm. She is 15 when she is swept off her feet by Hank Richards. He marries her and takes her to live in a small cabin in Gap Creek where he rents a room from Mr. Pendergast in exchange for meals and upkeep of the place. 

Julie’s story is one of hard work and heartbreak. Her life is a hard frontiering life . She quickly learns that marriage can be difficult as well. Things start out well for the marriage despite Mr. Pendergast demeaning treatment of Julie and often times crude remarks. The challenge of growing food and raising and slaughtering animals leads to a devastating accident that changes the course of their lives quite dramatically. 

Julie’s story is one of work, love, determination and heartache. She is faced with hope and regret, in her decisions and handles most things with the maturity I know I didn’t have at 15 or 16 years of age. She is quite the amazing young lady. Julie’s inner strength somehow pulls her through her challenges. She relates it this way. 

 “Then I took a bucket and rag and washed the floor. It made me feel strong to get down on my knees on those rough boards. It was like a morning prayer, kneeling on the cold boards and crawling backwards to rub away any dirt with the rag. As I scrubbed the floor I was s rubbing part of the world. And I was scrubbing my mind to make it clear. It was work that made me think clear, and it was work that made me humble. I could never talk fast, and I could never say what I meant to people, or tell them what they meant to me. My tongue never loosened my feelings. It was with my hands and with my back and shoulders that I could say how I felt. I had to talk with my arms and my strong hands.”

 She spends a lot of time alone in that cabin on Gap Creek until she opens her heart and home to the local Christian church. This part was a relief for me, to finally see her find the support of other women that she needed so desperately. 

"The world wouldn't have lasted this long if women didn't help each other," Elizabeth said.
"The world would be a better place if people helped each other more," Joannes said.
That night as I laid in bed, I kept thinking about how kind Joanne and Elizabeth had been to me. It made me feel growed up and kind myself to be treated that way. It made me feel like I was a bigger person. They made me want to be better.

 The author does a fantastic job of getting inside a woman’s mind and describing those thoughts and feelings of connection and interaction that women have with one another. Another example of that is when Julie has her first baby, all by herself in the cabin. The description of labor and childbirth are so accurate and beautiful. I could relate to every word. 

There were a few parts of the book that I didn’t care for. The scene of her brother dying was pretty graphic and gross. There are also several scenes of intimacy. Although they are between husband and wife and therefore moral, I still did not want to read about it and skipped as much as I could. If I were to recommend a book in this genre, I would recommend a different one. Although it was a good book, I can think of others I would recommend first.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review: Scumble

Learning to scumble a new savvy is not easy. At least that’s what Ledger Kale thinks.
Image result for scumble
Ledger Kale, the main character in “Scumble” by Ingrid Law, was hoping his savvy would be something useful, like running at lightning speed. But when his 13th birthday rolls around and things start falling apart, literally, his hopes for his future are destroyed, along with the family van and anything else held together with nuts and bolts. Ledger Kale’s savvy is being able to tear things apart and he is not happy about it.

When the family drives to Uncle Autry’s bug ranch in Wyoming for cousin Fish’s wedding, things go from bad to worse. In an effort to help Ledger learn to scumble or control his savvy, his parents leave him and his sister, Fedora, at the ranch for the summer. The ranch is the perfect place for using your savvy without worry of discovery, out in the wide open spaces of Wyoming and is home to several other cousins who are working on scumbling. Things get really complicated when 13 year old Sara Jane Cabot stumbles into Ledger’s life and sees his savvy at work. The problem is that she runs a self-published newspaper called the Sundance Scuttlebutt and is about to blow the whistle on what goes on up at the ranch, which has just been foreclosed on by her father. Now it’s a race against time and Sara Jane, to save the ranch and keep the family secret a secret.

Ledger is a typical 13 year old, full of self-doubt and extra energy, to which most kids, boys and girls both, will relate. His savvy is most active when he is nervous, angry, or embarrassed which seems like all the time, especially when you’re in the middle of puberty. Introducing a girl, Sarah Jane, into the mix makes it all the worse to the point that he doubts he will ever regain control of himself. I believe most kids will relate to those feelings. As in Savvy, I really appreciated the simple love story. It was innocent, fun and completely age appropriate, which seems really hard to find these days.

Ledger learns a lot about himself throughout his adventure. In the final climatic scene of the novel he says, “Closing my eyes, I bowed my head, wondering…praying…demanding to know: Dear God, what had I been built to do?” This prayer could be offered by anyone, young and old, anytime making the novel relatable to all who read it. And his prayers are answered as he discovers his savvy is not just to tear things down. “But now I knew too,…that sometimes things have to come apart before becoming something different-something better.”

This young adolescent novel is fantastic and lives up to the expectations left by its predecessor, “Savvy.” It is full of new family characters, each with their own unique savvy and a few carry-over characters, such as Rocket. The new savvies, as well as old, are fun to see and the characters interact as a family would. The characters are diverse and interesting. This book is just wonderful. It’s full of adventure and discovery.  Just like “Savvy,” I recommend it for all pre-teens and up.