Thought for the day:
“If we had more fairy tales when we were young, we’d need less therapy as adults.” ~James Hillman~
For my fabulous giveaway, the winner is Jennifer Rumberger! (Cue the cheering crowds!) Jennifer, I will be sending you a copy of The Candy Smash. Jennifer is also a children’s writer and participates in Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday. You can check out her blog and a review of a brand new middle-grade book by clicking HERE. The book will be on its way soon. Enjoy! I have another giveaway for today, so stay tuned.
I’ve just finished reading one of the best books I’ve read lately. After Eli by Rebecca Rupp was an absolutely wonderful surprise. When I read a little about it, I thought it might be pretty darned serious and maybe even a little dreary since the story deals with a young boy, Danny, who lost the big brother he idolized three years before. Well, it is a serious book, but handled very lightly and with a surprising amount of humor. And there is nothing dreary about it.
Danny’s brother Eli volunteers to go to war, but promises he will be back. Since Eli accomplished everything he’d ever set his mind to, Danny has no doubt he will return. But he doesn’t. He is killed by a roadside bomb. And that bomb doesn’t just blow up Eli, it blows up Danny’s family as well. Their father disappears into his job and only comes home to share his anger and express his disappointment with Danny. Their mother disappears into a grief so deep and debilitating that it’s hard to believe she will ever return. Danny is really left on his own. He begins to keep a binder he calls The Book of the Dead in which he lists of historical figures – how they died and, more importantly, why. Did their death have purpose? Does any death have purpose? And, of course, he spends a lot of time thinking about Eli, and the reader gets to know Eli very well and learns why he is so loved by everyone.
Danny’s father wants Danny to go to summer school, but instead Danny takes a job working on a potato farm run by Jim, former crack addict and Eli’s best friend. None of this makes Danny’s father happy, but Danny finds a wonderful satisfaction in the work and in getting to know Jim and his girlfriend, Emma. That same summer, Danny meets an incredible girl, Isabelle, with whom Danny falls in love. He also gets to know a guy from school, Walter, who is something of an outcast, but becomes a true friend. These four people have a profound effect on Danny and help him find his way through much of his grief and into the beginning of adulthood. When Isabelle leaves at the end of summer, Danny reaches a crisis in his life facing another great loss.
I loved this book. I loved the characters and wanted another book so I could spend more time with them. And I wanted a prequel so I could get to know Eli better. And I loved the concept of a book that deals with such difficult problems in such a realistic and hopeful way. And I loved the writing – simple, elegant, and profound. It is not a perfect book. A few instances in the book, Rupp loses the male voice of Danny, and her “girlness” shows through, but only a very few. Other than that, I thought it was terrific. It transcends the middle-grade label put on it, and teens and adults will enjoy this lovely story. I highly recommend it.
I am giving away my gently-read hardback copy of After Eli. If you leave a comment, your name will go into the hat. If you post the link on your blog or on Facebook or tweet it, let me know and you will have an extra entry.
Don’t forget to stop by Shannon Messenger’s wonderful blog for more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday links. Click HERE to find it.