Out this week: The Anatomy of Wings
In the beginning of Karen Foxlee's debut novel, The Anatomy of Wings, a grown-up protagonist (Jennifer) stands at a dry river in her childhood town:
Years later when I go to the dry river everything is less than my memories. ...
The river is in a small mining town in Australia, and this tragic mystery lays out the complexities of a family's unwinding grief after the death of their oldest daughter. Most of the reviews I've seen of this book have focused primarily on the grief. It is a story about grief, but I think it's just as much about small towns. Foxlee first introduces young Jennifer at her sister's funeral, where she is being harangued by the "away cousins" about being from Nowheresville. Jennifer tries to figure out what happened to her sister, who sort of became a different person after an odd puberty-onset fainting spell, spiraling into wild, destructive behavior with a new group of equally bored, destructive friends. Anyone who's familiar with small town life--especially anyone who grew up in a small town without a lot of prospects and moved away--will recognize this place.
On one level, the title is about Jennifer's love of birds and facts about birds. But it's also, obviously, a metaphor for escape (or inability to escape). People in this town want to transcend their lives, and they want their children to do better than they did. Foxlee weaves in the backstories of some of the older townspeople (stories that Jennifer picks up from their neighbor Mrs. O'Malley, who has secrets of her own) to set the tone of the town and to show portraits of people who are stuck in different ways many years after they've suffered their own tragedies. In this sense, the place becomes the grief itself.
Foxlee builds a complex web of suspense, and the whole time you're wondering not only what happened to her sister but also what will happen to Jennifer, a young girl at a watershed moment, right before she enters her teens. It constantly begs the question of whether she'll become her mother or sister, or take off in her own way.
Quick links (just a few)...
Also out this week is Fade, Lisa McMann's crime-busting mystery follow-up to Wake, an eerie supernatural drama about Janie, who is plagued by her ability to visit other people's dreams. Janie's smart and practical... a less perky descendant of Nancy Drew with a spookier vibe. You learn more about Janie's abilities in this book, and if you're a Cabel fan from the first book, you'll get to see plenty more of him. Some love from the blogs:
That's all for this week. I'm at a coffee shop behind the Hilton in Chicago, getting ready for the AWP conference, which starts tomorrow. I'm hoping to catch at least a little bit of the panels on YA fiction (E. Lockhart especially). Maybe I'll see you there.--Heidi