Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Great Unexpected, by Sharon Creech

Naomi lives in the small town of Blackbird Tree.  It is not named because of the shape of its trees, however, but for the many blackbirds that live in those trees.  Blackbird Tree is a bit of a tragic place, where most of the children have experienced some sort of loss.  Naomi is unsurprisingly a bit of a pessimist.  After losing her mother as an infant, and her father in a tragic accident, she has been in the care of Joe and Nula.  But she has always felt a little off kilter about the whole thing.  What if someone comes to take her away?  What if bad things instead of good things start coming out of the donkey's ear from the story that Joe tells?

One fateful day, a boy falls out of a tree right in front of Naomi.  She's not sure if he's real or not-real, so she is happy when her friend Lizzie comes by and lets her know that she can indeed see this boy laying unconscious on the ground.  Where Naomi dwells in the quiet places, Lizzie fills the air with her words, which can be both comforting and bothersome at once.  She fusses over the boy when he comes to, and worries after "Finn boy" who says that he is staying up on the hill with the dim Dimmenses.

Finn has awoken something in Naomi, and she finds that she cannot stop thinking about him.  Each time she runs into him she asks Finn about his life, but he would much prefer to talk to Naomi about hers.  He seems odd, however, visiting the folks in town that others normally steer clear of - folks like Crazy Cora, or Witch Wiggins.  When Finn asks Naomi where he can find Elizabeth Scatterding, who just happens to be Naomi's Lizzie, she finds herself consumed with jealousy.

Meanwhile over in Ireland, Sybil and her caretaker Miss Pilpenny are plotting revenge.  Living at Rook's Orchard, Sybil has enlisted the help of a solicitor to help her with the perfect plan.  There is a Finn boy who used to live there, as well.

Creech has woven together a magical story about family and friendship and the ties that bind.  Each character, no matter how seemingly small is tied to another, and readers will find themselves spell bound from considering the ways in which this is possible in their own lives.   Naomi herself often wonders about the connections between people and places - 

"But I thought about all the things that had to have spun into place in order for us to be alive and for us to be right there, right then.  I thought about the few things we thought we knew and the billions of things we couldn't know, all spinning, whirling out there somehow."  (p 223 arc)

The Great Unexpected is a story that defies categorization in terms of story and of audience.  Found within its pages are mystery and magic, old and young, boys and girls, rich and poor.  I just finished it an hour ago, and I already want to read it again!


Randi M said...

This sounds delightful! I'm so glad to have found your blog. :) I'm working on my Master's in secondary English education, hoping to to teach middle school, so I'm always looking for great recommendations for middle grades books. Excellent review, I can't wait for this to be released!

LinWash said...

This book sounds wonderful! I promptly put it on my wish list. I've loved Sharon Creech's books since Walk Two Moons. I can't wait to read this.