Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Girl Who Won Me Over

The Fantasy genre of reading material is not my thing.  I like the concrete world of humans, not elves, goblins, fairies or hobbits. I want to learn something - something clear - about my world. I do not want to lose myself in another world that takes away real estate from my brain cells. I want to exercise my imagination within the confines of the box God has visually created for me. I don't need any more stimuli.

However, I married a man who LOVES fantasies. He enjoys the craziness of other worlds and likes to escape the all-too-real one in which we live.  Because of that, several of my children, if not all of them, also enjoy a rich imagination and thrill at visiting other worlds created by authors.

Recently, my two girls and I had to read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente for a book club. It was the first book chosen to read, picked by some other girls in the club. We got about halfway through the book and my daughters disliked the book so much, they begged out of joining the book club. I let them off the hook, thinking the book was a little young for them and also because I secretly agreed that the book was strange.  Thinking that was the end of our newest read, I put the book back on the library shelf in our home, waiting for it's due date to come.

But then...

I couldn't quit looking at it. I wondered what was going to happen to the main character. I figured it would turn out well in the end, but how?  The descriptive writing was smart and funny. It was colorful and intriguing.

I asked the girls if they wanted to finish the book, just because.


Well, I hate to put down any book in the middle of it. Even bad books I like to give to the very end. I look for any redeeming qualities.  The author worked hard to share themselves and I want to give them every chance I can. Isn't that the heartbeat of a reader?

Of course, I finished reading the book, and I'm secretly thinking about reading the second and third to continue the adventure.  I've enjoyed one other fantasy book in my lifetime, but this one was also fun. It was weird enough to be discombobulating, but grounded enough to keep up with the plot.  It's the wonderful, descriptive moments that kept me coming back. Here are a couple of my favorite.

"The trouble was, September (our main character) didn't know what sort of story she was in. Was it a merry one or a serious one? How ought she to act? If it were merry, she might dash after a Spoon, and it would all be a marvelous adventure, with funny rhymes and somersaults and a grand party with red lanterns at the end. But if it were a serious tale, she might have to do something important, something involving, with snow and arrows and enemies. Of course, we would like to tell her which. But no one may know the shape of the tale in which they move. And, perhaps, we do not truly know what sort of beast it is, either.  Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble." (pp. 35-36)

"She (a portrait) wore an ivory crown and a smile so wide and kind September felt she could love that lady all the days of her life and never feel cheated, even if the lady never looked twice at such a poor, shabby soul as September. In the painting, she seemed to glow. That is what a grown-up looks like, thought September. Not like the grown-ups in my world who look sad and disappointed and grimy with work and bored with everything. What do the storybooks say? In the fullness of her strength." (pp. 91-92)

The book was strange and confusing at times, but wholly likable. Ms. Valente is a talent, for sure.  She has given me a second fantasy book to enjoy.

Who knows? Maybe my tastes are growing.