A 1933 bank failure piles calamity on top of disaster. Separated from his family, 12 year-old Eldie Craine is up to his eyeballs in unfamiliar territory: Someone else's clothes, different faiths, a new school, and new rules. And now there's Cecilea.
I like to remember that my first publication was at the age of seven, in The Flint Journal. Every newspaper should give kids a chance to see their work in print. I love creating stories. My mother captured my stories back then, and taught me to trust myself, while valuing self-editing. Best advice from her? “You owe no one an explanation for who you are or what you do with your life. Live it. It is yours and only yours. You will make mistakes, have regrets, and need to apologize. Everyone does. None of that takes away from the gloriousness that is you.”
A few more things about me: I’m a daughter, a mother, a sister, a wife, a grandmother, and a friend. I love to bicycle, garden, hike, read, quilt, knit, decorate cakes, look under the microscope, and see the big picture. I like a clean house, but I hate to clean. I’ve been a septic inspector, a waitress, a sanitarian, a microbiologist, a chemist, a trained tongue, an investigator, a pest control specialist, a director, a developer, and a babysitter. I like to laugh and I know the value of tears.
With Adela's writing, you are immediately transported to the time of the depression and the Craine family's world. She paints a literary picture that is unforgettable. The laughs, the tears, the mischief, the heart ache. I'm hoping there's a sequel so I can find out how this family fared.
The wonderful thing about hearing a story from a child's perspective is that children have limited awareness of adult troubles. In A Ship of Pearl, Eldie, 12, exists in a time when money is scarce, a house fire has taken his family's home and forced his siblings and parents to board separately with others, and his new living situation means attending a new (and inferior, in Eldie's opinion) school with a new (much less pleasant) teacher. But because Eldie is a child, we as readers escape the pressure felt by adult parents trying to provide for their children under harsh conditions. Instead, we get to follow Eldie, both in the (his) present day and through his rich and vivid memories, from his almost-born days in the womb to his twelfth year.
In that time, we're casually made aware of the family's difficulties (Eldie is told he can take a fresh sandwich from the trash, if he wants it - he's so skinny, after all), but we're also introduced to Eldie's dynamic, sparkling parents, his friends (Ephram is wonderful until he isn't, but he still very much is), and his serious love interest, Cecilia. We're immersed not in constant woe and struggle, but in a place and a past--the scents of the flowers Eldie knows, the behavior of livestock he observes, the two-room house and the one-room schoolhouse, all part of the huge, small world where Eldie lives--, and with the kind of naturally and beautifully placed details that never once pull readers out of the story the way some do with their clunky efforts to explain or show.
The story is immersive not only because of its characters and their braided-together lives, but because Adela Crandell Durkee somehow managed to fully inhabit the mind of a young boy. Eldie's observations are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, other times age-appropriately simple but utterly lovely poetry. (Because I listened to the novel while walking my dog, it wasn't possible to copy my favorite passages. If I had copied them, this review would go on and on with short excerpts that I just loved.)
I hope someday to be able to write like Crandell. In the meantime, I'll be content to continue reading her.
*I received the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.* Narrator Performance: Bud Corley is the only voice I can imagine speaking for Eldie. There's something about the surface-level sound of his voice, his manner of speaking, that takes us to childhood, but beyond that, it's as if Corley intimately knows the heart and soul of Eldie. Every emotion, from frustration to guilt to confusion to amusement, is convincingly expressed without over-acting or even a hint of obvious effort.
Told from the perspective of twelve-year-old Eldie, "A Ship of Pearl" is a heartwarming, insightful, and hopeful coming of age story. It's a story about memory; an artful demonstration of the magic of a child's perspective. We follow young Eldie as he adjusts to a new life after his family home is burnt down, forcing them to separate and live with different families, presenting new opportunities and challenges. Adela has a magical way of crafting a young character who is both extremely self-aware, but also eager to learn what he doesn't understand. "I got the best memory for things I want to remember," he says. We follow Eldie explore the mysteries of new friends and new love, the hard truths of growing up, while maintaining a strong willed optimism carried throughout the story. "Life can take some sweet and bitter turns, even in one afternoon," he says. "That's for darn sure."
*apologies for any misquotes - I listened to this as an audiobook*
This novel is one of the most hopeful and well written pieces I have read in a long time. Just like the central theme of the poem about the Chambered Nautilus, the novel unfolds one memory at a time, with each piece of the perspective creating the whole. As the teller of the tale, Eldie, embarks on his journey of recollection, the novel almost reads as a connection of vignettes and character studies. However, as the story continues, it maps out a beautiful message about hope and life, disappointment and joy, and the bittersweet truth of growing up. I absolutely love this story and the way that it is written. It is a true work of art.
A beautifully written story about living through the Great Depression from the eyes of a twelve year old boy. Despite the many challenges and obstacles that this family faces, the main character Eldie continues to have faith and confidence in the future and a deep love for his family. I really enjoyed this book and I found the characters incredibly likable.
Adela Crandall Durkee is a storyteller and her novel A Ship of Pearl is a wonderful addition to my ever growing library of "Books I Want to Re-Read". A book that begs to be read again is one that stays on my bookshelf or, in this case, on my Kindle forever. No clearing it out because it is so well written and so engaging that it begs to be read more than once.
I was thrilled to be able to set aside time to read A Ship of Pearl during some travel time and found myself happy to have a slight flight delay because it meant more reading time.
The novel follows the life and adventures of Eldie Craine and his family around the time of the 1933 bank crisis in Michigan . To say that life was complicated and difficult is an understatement. Change was afoot in every area of Eldie's life and it was not always good change.
The author creates a story that begs to be read. Characters become real and the reader is led to feel that they are not just characters but real life friends. The entire novel made me feel that I was part of the lives of these people and I could hardly wait to turn the next page to see what was going to happen next to these people who lived a simple but difficult life.
Maybe one of the best things about this book was Ms. Durkee's ability to turn a phrase. There were so many instances of really wonderful writing that I have highlights all through the book. One of my favorite descriptions was in Chapter 2 : "Ephraim's got a proud, rich-man look about hi, he moves like his bones are made of licorice, all fluid and straight at the same time." Perfect, don' t you think?
Growing up was not an easy thing but there were good times along with the difficult times and these were the things that made the story alive for me. Reading about mischievous young boys, braids and inkwells, pranks played on others --all of the stories woven within this book were part of unique storytelling and Ms. Durkee excels at sharing her words in a way that leaves the reader wanting more.
It is not often that I gush over a book like this. I loved every single character, every single description and every page that I turned brought me more enjoyment. This will be one that I recommend and re-read from time to time. Great job, Adela Crandall Durkee. I hope there are more books coming for those of us who appreciate excellent writing and storytelling.
I fell in love with Adela’s storytelling before I finished the first chapter. Ship of Pearl is so well written. I will probably read it again and again. My favorite time periods to read are the 1910’s through the 1940’s and this novel is set in the 1930’s. Life was anything but easy during that decade and I am fascinated with any story, fiction or non-fiction that gives me a glimpse into the lives of the children and adults that found a way to scrap by until times got better. I so admire people that actually lived through the depression. I always feel so blessed when I finish a book like this, blessed that I was born and grew up in better times. The characters are so well crafted, the writing lyrical and I look forward to Adela’s next book.