Monday, May 21, 2012

Julie's Review: The Land of Decoration

Summary: A mesmerizing debut about a young girl whose steadfast belief and imagination bring everything she once held dear into treacherous balance. In Grace McCleen's harrowing, powerful debut, she introduces an unforgettable heroine in ten-year-old Judith McPherson, a young believer who sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith. Persecuted at school for her beliefs and struggling with her distant, devout father at home, young Judith finds solace and connection in a model in miniature of the Promised Land that she has constructed in her room from collected discarded scraps—the Land of Decoration. Where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility and divinity in even the strangest traces left behind. As ominous forces disrupt the peace in her and Father's modest lives—a strike threatens her father's factory job, and the taunting at school slips into dangerous territory—Judith makes a miracle in the Land of Decoration that solidifies her blossoming convictions. She is God's chosen instrument. But the heady consequences of her new found power are difficult to control and may threaten the very foundations of her world. With its intensely taut storytelling and crystalline prose, The Land of Decoration is a gripping, psychologically complex story of good and evil, belonging and isolation, which casts new and startling light on how far we'll go to protect the things we love most.

Review: I really don't know what to make or think of The Land of Decoration. I found Judith to be a little eccentric for 10 years old and perhaps too wise for her own good. She carries around tremendous guilt. Guilt that her mother died, guilt that it was her fault, guilt over her father's sadness. Judith is picked on by a boy, Neil, who tells her that on Monday she better know how to hold her breath because her head will be in a toilet.

That weekend she meets a man at her church meeting and he tells her about the power of miracles. Judith begins to pray for and then make snow. It snows so much that she doesn't have to go to school. Therefore, avoiding getting her head swirled in a toilet. You know the saying "Be Careful what you wish for?", well someone should have informed Judith of this and change wish to pray. By making small miracles, Judith changes the lay of the land and she alters the future. At 10, she doesn't quite grasp the concept that small things lead to bigger things and it gets out of control.

Throughout the novel I had to wonder if Judith was just having a dream, a hallucination or if all of this was really happening. It was that kind of writing that kept me wondering until the very end of the novel. I was also left wondering for most of the novel where and what time period this story takes place in. I enjoyed the fact that I couldn't figure it out, which for me meant that the story spanned time. Perhaps that's because of the way the book is written. You get so wrapped up in Judith's world that you don't need to know the place. Ms. McCleen transports you to a world in which the belief in God and the Armageddon is so strong that it outweighs living in the present. Which led me to think, how can that be healthy for a 10 year old girl? How can that be healthy for anyone?

I'm not sure how the very last chapter fit into the book but could only think that it had to be related to her mother and father's relationship and the story Judith told in the course of the novel. Things are slowly revealed about her parents and about her relationship with her father. There are some great little nuggets of wisdom in this book:

"I think people don't believe in things because they are afraid. Believing something means you could be wrong, and if you're wrong you can get hurt." - page 46

"Evidence isn't all there is to believing, and neither is being able to explain it. Even if people can't explain something - like seeing a ghost or being healed - once they have experienced it, they believe it,----though they might have spend their whole life saying it was nonsense. Which means that people who say something is impossible have probably just never experienced it." - page 48

In the end, I'm sending this to Alice because I think it's more up her alley than it is up mine. Plus I want to have someone to discuss it with eventually. Even if I have to refresh my memory of it.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for an ARC copy of the book.



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