sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

May 6, 2020

into the stacks 2020: february, part 1
posted by soe 1:30 am

As always, I’ve been lazy about sharing what I’ve finished reading this year. Let’s take the next step toward getting caught up. I read five books in February, but am just going to share the first two with you today, since they unintentionally share a theme:

Words in Deep Blue, by Cath Crowley

In this Australian y.a. novel, Rachel has just moved back to the city where she spent most of her growing-up years. She, her brother, and her mom had moved out to the coast a couple years earlier, but tragedy has struck and Rachel has returned to live with her aunt after high school. Adding to the stress of big life changes and their accompanying seismic waves is that, just before she’d moved, she’d declared her undying love for her best friend in a letter. And he’d never responded. Now, her aunt has agreed that she’ll help her ex-BFF’s family catalogue their bookshop’s inventory, including the room of books with letters tucked inside for various recipients, including the one she’d written Henry. She’s not going to mention it, though; nor is she going to share what drove her to move back.

Henry’s longtime girlfriend just dumped him, shortly before a trip they were going to take around the world. He’s devastated, particularly since it’s clear that at least part of the problem is that his life goals — to work in his family’s shop — and thus he are not ambitious enough for her. When Rachel walks back into his life, he’s delighted, particularly since he doesn’t know why she’d severed ties with him after she moved. But she seems to have changed, and there seem to be a number of things unsaid between them where there didn’t used to be barriers.

I really loved the idea of a bookstore with space devoted to books that meant something to two people, that published words can be so intimate as to constitute a shared experience. This was a heartbreaking read, but also a heartmending one, and I recommend it.

Pages: 288. Personal copy.

Do Fish Sleep?, by Jens Raschke, with illustrations by Jens Rassmus. Translated from German by Belinda Cooper.

Ten-year-old Jette’s brother, Emil, has been sick since he was a baby. He’s been in and out of the hospital with cancer. And, then, a year ago, he died, leaving everyone bereft, but without the capacity to talk about it. Their mother is particularly hard hit, leaving Jette to wonder if she’d loved her brother more. But Jette and Emil have talked about some of the big questions, such as whether fish sleep or not and how to come to terms with questions you might not be able to prove the answer to.

It doesn’t feel like we have a lot of fiction for younger kids coping with loss of a sibling. There’s a lot of genuine emotion in this book, but it deftly deals with the subject matter and lightens the emotional load a bit with accompanying pen and ink illustrations, so that it doesn’t end up feeling like an Afterschool Special. Recommended for young families.

Pages: 64. Library copy.

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