I liked this book. Let's start with the good. (And let me add that these are mostly my notes to myself as I try to see what worked for me and what did...moreI liked this book. Let's start with the good. (And let me add that these are mostly my notes to myself as I try to see what worked for me and what didn't from a writer's perspective.)
The device of originating the story as an essay could have been gimmicky, but I think Mr. Rex pulled it off. It served as a good structure to hang his story on. The illustrations are charming and added a lot to the world/tone of the book. The garbled English that the alien J.Lo speaks remains consistent and creates a truly endearing character. The author does a good job of creating an event that is world-wide in scope with just a few wide strokes. We don't get bogged down in too much detail, but we are given just enough context for the action at hand.
In one particularly effective passage, the narrator describes the alien spaceship in detail, then stops herself: "But no: this isn't working. By describing the ship, I'm making it seem less than it was, and that's a sin. It was terrible. And it was wrong. Just looking at it felt like losing. It was the great flying monstrous humming end of the world." She then goes on to describe her emotional reaction to the fact that there are aliens. Sometimes writers get bogged down integrating description into the story, and I thought this was a direct and elegant way to handle it.
Unlike the reviewer at The New York Times Book Review, I didn't laugh out loud when I read this, but it was witty and quirky. Humor is a good thing, but it does lead me to the first negative of my review. While I did enjoy the narrative voice, it was very sophisticated. It comes as a huge shock when we learn that Gratuity is only 11 1/2 years old. I'm all for artistic license, but this was pushing it a bit far. Plus, there were pop culture references that were anachronistic to the character's age (I'm almost 39, and many of them were from my childhood), which took me out of the story a bit.
*Spoilerish* I feel like we were not given any explanation for the transformation of Gratuity's mother from a woman who needed to be protected by her daughter to a competent and admired leader. Was Gratuity's initial assessment of her mom wrong? Did her mom grow? That loose end stood probably stood out because everything else was well-developed.
Finally, I thought the book was a little preachy in parts. I like my morals delivered with a bit more subtlety. But I thought it was fun, entertaining read and I would recommend it. Even though it was written for 9-12 year-olds.
How great a name is Rumer Godden? I really enjoyed this quiet book, even though I went into it rather skeptical of its ability to hold my attention. W...moreHow great a name is Rumer Godden? I really enjoyed this quiet book, even though I went into it rather skeptical of its ability to hold my attention. What I gathered from the cover is that it was about a well-respected career woman (with the also fantastic name of Philippa Talbot)who joins a Benedictine monastery. The interaction between the women in the abbey, small but compelling plot elements, and insights into the contemplative life and Christian spirituality in general kept me turning the pages.
The only downside (for me) was the large cast of characters. It was difficult in the beginning to know which characters were important to keep track of. I also felt let down that the book didn't spend more time in Philippa's head...she was someone I wanted to know better.
These days, any writer sharing a manuscript with her critique group will be castigated for not maintaining a consistent POV. So the "rules are made to be broken" part of me rather enjoyed that the author switched POV's frequently, sometimes even mid-paragraph. Ms. Godden's language was simple (no four-dollar words) but extremely elegant at the same time.
It was interesting to realize that, for these nuns, renouncing the world and joining the order was only the first step in self-denial. Human nature being what it is, we still seek satisfaction in things outside of God. The sisters are often given duties/assignments to correct this tendency, and it is remarkable that Ms. Godden is able to so powerfully portray the pain of this process.
There is one great sadness in this book (foreshadowed from the get-go, so I'm not spoiling it), so if you are a very sensitive type (as I am), you could skim that bit or have a tissue and/or whiskey handy. (less)