Barbara Bell's Reviews > The Clearing

The Clearing by Heather Davis
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's review
Mar 29, 2010

it was amazing
Read from March 29 to April 13, 2010

As “The Clearing” opens, we are privy to the main character’s thoughts, and we know that things are not quite right. She lies awake, listening to the sound of late-night TV coming from her mother and step-father’s room. Most of all – at night – she wishes herself to be far, far away. She imagines a life far away from her suburban neighborhood, far away from the green lawns of her high school, but most of all, far away from a guy named Matt and the bruises he left on her arms.

To the reader of Heather Davis’ second YA novel, Amy seems like a broken soul. She is unhappy when her friends think she is lying about Matt and the bruises, when her mom and stepdad have a life of their own, and when she realizes that high school life in the small town of Rockville is no different than high school life in the big city of Seattle.

When Amy suggests moving in with her great aunt Mae in the North Cascade Mountains, her mother doesn’t argue, leaving Amy feeling bereft and alone, but she is out of options. Aunt Mae is gracious and loving and seems to think the balm for a broken spirit is manual labor. Living up in the mountains means there is always wood to chop for the fire, apples to peel for pie, and weeds to remove from the garden.

It is when Amy grows bored with her wood chopping that Aunt Mae’s german shepherd, Katie, provides entertainment with a game of fetch. Where she leads Amy starts the mystery that is the true adventure of this book. The path they are on ends in a rectangular field, bordered on three sides by trees and on the fourth by mist. It is this mist that feels like a secret hiding place and allows Amy some peace from her memories of an abusive boyfriend, a mom who did nothing, and the friends who didn’t believe her. As calming as going into the mist is, it’s still kind of weird and Amy is curious as to what’s on the other side.

When she does get to the other side of the mist, she meets Henry who is mowing the lawn with a push mower and wearing some “old-school farmer outfit.” Amy is sure he must be in some religious group that doesn’t believe in new technology or something to explain his super retro ways. Instead, the truth between them becomes apparent as the story continues. Henry may seem like he is old school to Amy; but in fact, he is in perfect sync with his time period, which happens to be 1944. Something about the mist in the clearing shifts their time and space continuums.

As Amy struggles with the concept, she and Henry forge a friendship and learn about each other bit by bit. In doing so, Amy reclaims her power as a person and begins to lose her shame of being treated so badly by Matt. Most of all it is Henry’s sense of chivalry that makes this a heartwarming story. He sees the fear in Amy’s eyes when he gets too close, and he has this powerful urge to keep her safe. While he’s never felt so strongly about a girl before, his ties to Amy are tenuous, at best. He fears that if he lets reality in beyond the borders of the mist, the carefully constructed world that he has built to keep his family safe will be gone. What happens then? What happens to Amy?

What he does in the end is so moving and so touching that it resonates with the reader as a true act of love. Through a simple action, Henry changes the course of Amy’s history and gives her a good life, while sacrificing his own. “The Clearing” is one of those novels where the story will stay with you, long after you have finished the last page and closed the back cover.

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Reading Progress

03/29/2010 page 121

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