Sunday, May 18, 2008

Yup. Reads Like A Newbery Book To Me.

Small, small town + eccentric characters + child character (preferably female) who thinks deep thoughts + death = Newbery Book.

I listened to The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron on my trip to Vermont on Thursday. You know--The Scrotum Book.

First, let's deal with the scrotum issue. I thought a young girl being fascinated by a dog being bitten in the crotch and wondering about that part of male anatomy was one of the more realistic aspects of this book.

I found a lot of the plot elements in this book unbelievable and painfully meaningful. But I feel that way about a lot of books that are highly regarded by adult readers. No, I can't begin to guess what that says about me.

For instance, Lucky, the main character, lives with her father's first ex-wife, who he called in from France to come live in the desert and care for her when his second ex-wife (her mother) died. While I do find the scenario of an adult and child who are not genetically or legally related sticking with one another simply because they want to fascinating, this couple didn't do it for me. I didn't believe that any eight-year-old child, (Lucky's age when her mother dies very suddenly) would take to being cared for by a stranger who barely shares a language with her. I didn't believe that said caretaker would have put up with living in that desolate place. Why didn't she pack the kid up and get the hell out of there?

A lot of those plot elements seemed quite random to me, too, as in I missed the causal relationship. All of a sudden, Lucky starts recalling her mother's funeral. It didn't seem to follow what went before. And after she runs away and has the whole town hunting for her, when they find her, she suddenly decides to conduct a second memorial service for her mother, whose ashes she had brought with her. And everyone immediately falls into line with her plan instead of getting hold of her and giving her a good shake for having taken off.

That's what I mean by painfully meaningful, by the way.

I never figured out what Lucky's higher power was, either.

It occurred to me that perhaps this was a Zenny book, that the plot didn't matter because you were supposed to get into the moment of each chapter and that I couldn't do that because I was too busy driving and getting excited because the computer in my car claimed I was getting incredible gas mileage. But I think it's more likely that I couldn't get into the moment because I'm not that crazy for the formula of small, small town + eccentric characters + child character (preferably female) who thinks deep thoughts + death.


Kate said...

I feel so validated! You tagged all the bits that most bothered me about this book -- especially the small- town-peopled-EXCLUSIVELY-by-eccentric-characters part. Getting the tone of small towns right seems to be very difficult for people who weren't actually raised in one.

Gail Gauthier said...

I feel validated because you feel validated!

Erin said...

Yep, I agree with everything you said. When I'd finished, it just left me with such a 'meh' feeling... No loving or hating it, just not really caring.