Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Found Things by Marilyn Hilton, 2014

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Experience the wonder of the river in this haunting debut novel, where family is lost, friends are found, and hope runs in the current.One morning, River Rose Byrne wakes up talking like nobody else, and she doesn't know why. Maybe it's because her beloved older brother, Theron, has abruptly vanished. Maybe it's because that bully Daniel Bunch won't leave her alone. Or maybe it has everything to do with the eerily familiar house that her mind explores when she's asleep, and the mysterious woman who lives there. River has to puzzle through these mysteries on her own until she makes a strange new friend named Meadow Lark. But when she brings Meadow Lark home and her mother reacts in a way that takes River by surprise, River is more lost than before. Now all that's left for her to do is make wish after wish;and keep her eyes open for a miracle. Marilyn Hilton's haunting debut dives down deep into murky waters brimming with secrets, sorrow, and hope, giving us faith in the things that we seek, but haven't yet found. 

I really, really liked this book while I was reading it. I decided right off the bat that it would be a snap to review, partly because the whole thing was like one long poetic quote. The main character, River, has a speech defect that makes everything she says take on a rhythmic, pretty feel. For example, here's the first paragraph from the book:

"The morning after Theron leave us, I start talking this way - like no one else I'd ever known in Quincely, New Hampshire. Whenever Mama heard me, she look like she just ate a purple plum and didn't know what to do with the memory of it, all sweet and sour mixed together in her mouth. But the only thing she saw was that miracles are what's left after everything else is used up, and one morning I'd wake up and talk just like her River again."

Of course, the flavor in the rest of the book isn't quite as strong as in the first few pages, but I really like the effect it creates: you can hear River's unique voice, but the writing style doesn't hamper comprehension. Plus (and this is purely the writer in me) Hilton found a really clever way to avoid worrying about verb tense in her writing! I'll bet her editor loved that.

Now, like I said I really loved this book while I was reading it. It kind of reminded me of True (Sort of . . .) by Katherine Hannigan, which is a truly wonderful book (that someday I will get around to reviewing). The big difference was that I didn't finish the book with the knowledge that I would never ever forget the story, as I had when I put down True (Sort of . . . ). It was a nice ending, it really was, but it left me feeling empty. Maybe everything ended too quickly, or maybe I guessed too much of the ending ahead of time: most of what I wanted to happen/be explained did, and I was disappointed in what didn't happen. I mean, I thought there was going to be more about Meadow Lark in the end, a la True (Sort of . . . ), but there wasn't.

Speaking of Meadow Lark, let's talk about her as a character. It really seemed like Hilton was taking her somewhere, but then somewhere down the line couldn't decide what to do with her. Who exactly is Meadow Lark? Why does she move so much? What happened to her mother? You know what? I'll bet there's a sequal in the works. Besides all the questions about her past, though, she seems very insensitive to me. She is constantly pushing River to do things she doesn't want to, and going into Theron's room even though River says they're not allowed. I understand that she thinks they have too many rules, and I know she's good for River because she encourages her to be brave, but I still felt like she went too far every now and then - and then didn't really apologize.

River was a much more complex character, and I really liked her. She is still reeling from her brother's departure (he was basically kicked out of their house by her father, after driving a car into the river when he was, by all accounts, drunk), and has developed a strange way of speaking that springs from her conflicted emotions. She gets made fun of for her accent at school, and is becoming increasingly reticent and insecure. More and more she finds her mind "wandering" during her free moments, exploring a big house that she can see with perfect clarity in her mind. The minute I read that she was adopted I went "ah-ha!" But I have to say that I envy River for this house in her mind. How amazing it would be to be able to effortlessly enter a world in your head and literally hear, smell, and taste your surroundings!

The supporting characters are very strong as well, and some frankly have a better ending than the main characters. The resident bully is anything but one-dimensional, and provides a very interesting thread to the story web. Frankly, some of the later scenes with him are among my favorites from the entire book.

All in all, a deep book with more threads than you would expect, and extremely gripping. I would call it satisfying, but like I said before there's just something that doesn't resonate with me about the ending. Who knows, maybe I'm just weird and you'll love it. I'd definitely reccomend checking it out for yourself! If you do, let me know what you think.

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