Thursday, December 24, 2015


Title:  Eleanor
Author:  Jason Gurley
Publication Information:  Crown. 2016. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1101903511 / 978-1101903513

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "She sits in the breakfast nook and watches the rain."

Favorite Quote:  "Dreams do no occupy any particular reality ... They are a fabricated world, wholly owned by their makers. The rules do not apply."

This book is a difficult to classify into a genre. For its teenage main character, it is YA. For its themes of death and grief, it is a very adult book. For its metaphysical elements, it is science fiction and fantasy. For the way in which the story is told, it is literary fiction. No matter what genre you place it in, the book is a memorable read.

My reaction to this book differs according to the sections into which my mind divides the book. The first section of the book about Grandmother Eleanor is sad and compelling. Here is young woman who has given up her dreams of the Olympics and of her life to settle into a life of motherhood. She is perhaps not well suited to the choices she has made. Her sadness seeps through the book in the cold, harsh setting and the beating rain. The ending to this section is shocking. Questions about why and what happens next keep me reading.

The second section of the book introduces twins Eleanor and Esmerelda and the terrible accident that leaves one dead. At this point, I don't know exactly how it will tie back to Grandmother Eleanor's story, but the story of this family's grief keeps me reading.

This is the second book I have read recently that is based on the death of a twin. Untwine by Edwidge Danticat is the other. Both books have a car accident. In both, a twin dies, and the other is left behind. That is where the similarity ends though. Untwine is a book about the pure, unadulterated grief of one person - Giselle, the twin left behind. This book is about the grief of the twin left behind but also about her efforts to help alleviate the grief of her parents. Instead of being taken care of, Eleanor becomes the caretaker. Compassion for Eleanor keeps me reading.

The third section of the book takes this story in a completely different direction.  It introduces a science fiction and metaphysical element that I did not expect. It is mentioned in the book description, but I expect that reference to become a manifestation of grief not the central idea of the plot line. At this point, I feel that the book may be too far out in science fiction, which is not a bad thing, just unexpected in this story.  This section also feels a little repetitive as Eleanor experiences the same thing several different times. The story is building but too slowly at this point.

I am not sure if I want to keep going, but I do because I still do want to know what happens. The intrigue is there, and it keeps building. I do not see the ending coming, but when it does, the reaction is that of course, that's what it had to be. You have grandmother Eleanor's story, and granddaughter Eleanor's story. The ending brings one to a conclusion, but leaves me wondering about the other.

The compelling nature of this book comes primarily from the visual writing. Whether real or not, I see the worlds described. The descriptions are vivid and imaginative. I can hear the waves of the ocean, feel the rain, and see the vast darkness. The visualization captures the sense of isolation and desolation that is both the setting and the plight of the main characters. A very unusual and memorable book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment