Monday, July 28, 2014

A Haunted Family and a Haunted House

Since Rebecca Makkai snuck on to my radar with The Borrower I have been waiting patiently for her next book...and here it is.  The Borrower is one of those books that I loved because of it's quirk; experience has taught me that I should be cautious about recommending books that fall into that category, but I can't help it. They make me giggle at the wrong times, and by turning the world upside down they push me to see the life differently.  I don't always like what I see but as a result, I have stopped questioning whether or not there is life on Mars and go about my days taking what is given to me and accepting people for who they are no matter what they think or do or believe.  

One of the responsibilities of the written word is to challenge us to look again, to reevaluate and to consider other ways.  Quirky books do that for me, and so for me, they are valuable.  That is not the case for everyone, however, and that is just fine.  That is, unless it's the 50 shades books that are influencing your life. Not going into that again, except to say ...forget it, I won't get on my soapbox again about cruddy writing and cruddy books.  (And that is not an opinion, that is fact - 50 shades books are crud.)  OK, I have stepped off the box.  

Don't confuse The Borrower with the young people's stories by Mary Norton.  That is The Borrowers - with an "s" - clever little stories about tiny folk with borderline evil intentions - living under the steps in a family home.  Makkai's Borrower tells the story of a young boy who kidnaps a librarian.  Try topping that for excitement.  I double dog dare you.

Here's the scoop on this new book...which you all should read!

A haunted family and a haunted house... in reverse.

When Doug’s mother-in-law offers up the coach house at Laurelfield, her hundred-year-old estate north of Chicago, Doug and his wife Zee accept. Doug is fascinated by the house’s previous life as an artists’ colony, and hopes to find something archival there about the poet Edwin Parfitt, who was in residence at Laurelfield in the twenties (and whose work happens to be Doug’s area of scholarship). When he learns that there are file cabinets full of colony materials in the attic, Doug is anxious to get to work and save his career—but his mother-in-law refuses him access. With help from friends, Doug finally does access the Parfitt file—only to find far stranger and more disturbing material than he bargained for.
Doug may never learn all the house’s secrets, but the reader does, as the narrative zips back in time from 1999 to 1955 and 1929. We see the autumn right after the colony’s demise, when its newlywed owners are more at the mercy of the place’s lingering staff than they could imagine; and we see it as a bustling artists’ community fighting for survival in the last, heady days of the 1920s.

Through it all, the residents of Laurelfield are both plagued and blessed by the strange legacy of Laurelfield’s original owners: extraordinary luck, whether good or bad.

Thanks for stopping by.

Even though I no longer teach, I still read this book each year at the end of August.  It reminds me of what an important job teachers have,and  of how how hard they all work.  I think of my friends who continue to teach, and admire them for it.  I hope they are thanked each and every day.

This August, when I read UTDS, I will be thinking of Bel Kaufman, who passed away last Friday at 103.