Friday, August 22, 2014
Molly's introduction to the family is a far cry from welcoming. Hired by the Windsor's solicitor, Constance has no idea Molly is coming and is less than pleased to find her telling stories to her young daughter Penny in the dusty foyer of the house. Constance and her son Alistair want Molly and Kip to leave immediately, but Molly is able to use her gift of the gab to convince them that they would much rather live in a well tended house, and that she and Kip can provide it for them.
She will soon live to regret this move, as the family and the house seem to be harboring dark secrets. While she is able to throw herself into the ample work of cleaning up the household during the day, it is at night when Molly is most afraid. Every night since she's been sleeping in the house, she has been having terrible nightmares. And it turns out the darkness isn't just in her mind. She wakes to find her door open, leaves in her hair and mud on the floor.
As it turns out, the Night Gardener Miss Polly has mentioned is real. He wanders the house and the grounds at night and has his hand in the nightmares of the household.
And he is not the only dark element at the Windsors' place. The tree, growing much too close to the house, is more than it seems as well, and will soon ensnare Molly as it has the Windsors.
This is a deliciously scary story that will have readers up into the night to finish. Jonathan Auxier is one of those writers who seems like he's been around forever. Not because there are a plethora of his books lining the shelves, but because he is a craftsman. His books have a timeless quality to them and are made of the stuff with staying power. The Windsor's legacy is slowly revealed piece by piece which helps bring the suspense level to that of a slow burn. He explores the themes of human weakness and greed, family and loyalty with aplomb. The setting is expertly laid out and even now as I close my eyes I can see the grounds, the stables and the green door.
Fans of dark fantasy, Victorians, and well crafted stories will be left shivering with delight.
Monday, August 11, 2014
This is Chirp's (Naomi's) story. Well, her family's story really. Her mom is a dancer who has suddenly started to have some problems with her body. Her leg is dragging around and has been hurting her for a while, but Chirp's somewhat clinical and distant psychiatrist dad isn't really talking about it. Big sister Rachel is distancing herself as well as she tries on teendom for the first time.
When Chirp's mom is diagnosed with MS the family verily falls apart. Hannah's existence has always been that of a dancer, and she quickly falls into a deep depression and nobody in the family really knows how to cope. Chirp finds an ally in a very unexpected person - Joey Morell.
Joey's family is one that Chirp's family looks down on. They have a 3 sons who run amok, but their problems go deeper than that. Chirp and Joey find common ground, and as two kids who ultimately are scared and feeling abandoned, they cement their friendship as they slowly reveal the pain inside each of their houses.
I don't want to spoil the plot so I will leave it there, but will also say that Ehrlich is part poet and part magician as she weaves this tale together. "Ice-blue quiet smacks me when I open the front door after school." (p. 86) "A little square of my blouse is stuck to my upper arm, like the wrinkly paper on a temporary tattoo before you lift it off and leave a splotchy red heart or yellow smiley face behind." (p. 164) "The air's already thick and warm, even though the sun's still just a spritz of light in the pitch pines and the scrub oaks and not a hot, round ball bouncing on the top of my head, like it will be soon." (p. 12) Swoon.
For sure, this is a story filled with heavy and heady stuff. But it is through the eyes of Chirp, so while it is indeed sad, it is never too much. It is gorgeous, quiet and filled with hope. I fell in love with Chirp and Joey as I read. They simply became real, and I turned the pages late into the night because I could not leave their story unfinished.