Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Deja vu

I'm listening to The Mailbox and it's all sounding like Alabama Moon -- down to the same narrator. I guess that Nick Landrum (I've given that link before but that was before I figured out the linking button!) will now be specializing in books where disaffected-with-society, yet loving adults die leaving their sons/nephews bereft and searching for new families.

This time it's young Gabe Pace -- who, after years in foster care, has been living with his Uncle Vernon, Vietnam vet, for the past few years. On the first day of 6th grade, Gabe comes home to find Uncle Vernon dead on the floor. Gabe won't tell anyone because he doesn't want to go back into foster care, but the next day when he comes home from school, Uncle Vernon's body is gone and there's a note from someone named Smitty in the mailbox. Smitty gives him a dog and tells him not to worry, but -- here's where I am in the novel -- soon the you know what hits the fan. Listening to this in my car yesterday, I said to myself: This is child abuse. This person Smitty won't reveal himself to Gabe, but keeps him thinking he's a friend. I don't find this remotely appropriate.

Then, I try to remember that a kid reading this might feel differently -- not that Gabe's being abused, but that there's a caring adult with a reason why he's not stepping forward to help -- and I get down from my high moral dudgeon. For this reason, I think this is a book for younger readers and that's probably why I'll give it a no in the next day or two.

Landrum is a fine reader. He's got a lovely, deep, Southern-tinged voice that is delightful to listen to. He reads young characters with an adult voice, but brings a certain amount of innocence to the reading that they sound authentically youthful. I'd hate to see him get stereotyped as described above.

This novel seems self-conciously literate to me: Metaphoric descriptions of a sunset or a dog's fur or the Virginia countryside land clunkily in my ear. I hear them and I go -- oh, the author's showing us her credentials. Thank you!

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