Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Light Beneath Ferns by Anne Spollen

Published 2010.

Elizah Rayne is nothing like other fourteen-year-old girls. More interested in bird bones than people, she wraps herself in silence. Trying to escape the shadow of her gambler father, Elizah and her mother move into an old house that borders a cemetery. All her mother wants for them is to have "normal" lives. But that becomes impossible for Elizah when she finds a human jaw bone by the river and meets Nathaniel, a strangely hypnotic boy who draws Elizah into his dreamlike and mysterious world.

Only by forgetting everything she knows can Elizah understand the truth about Nathaniel - and discover an unimaginable secret.
(book back blurb)

This is a ghost story. An awesome, awesome ghost story. I can't really say what it is that I loved about this book so much. Maybe because it was a ghost story unlike anything I've ever read. It wasn't scary but at the same time it was kind of creepy. They're not ghosts that haunt and torment but remind and maybe love. It was just so unique that I honestly want to read it again just to soak it in even more.

Elizah is a loner by nature, which some people just can't grasp the concept of. People think that because someone actually chooses to not want to interact with people that there's something inherently wrong with them. The guidance counselor that Elizah goes to feels this is the case and not only she but Elizah's mother forces social interaction on her in a gross attempt to make her "normal." I can kind of relate to Elizah simply because I'm a loner myself. Not quite to the extent she is but I am looked at oddly by some people because I choose not to go out and socialize. Not to say I don't have friends; I'm just horrendously picky of the company I keep and bar hopping every weekend is not only a waste of my money, it's just not my scene. I have better things to do. Like talk to the voices in my head.

My favorite aspect of the story was the imagery of Nathaniel's village. Just the way it was described your mind couldn't really picture it without it being coated in a cold mist, as if looking through an early morning lens. You could see what it looked like but at the same time it was never really clear. You knew it looked like that colonial reproduction village just down stream but it fades in and out of the shadows as the sun casts them through the trees. Or doesn't. It was just so gripping and ethereal, tangible and intangible at the same time. I wanted to go there and see it for myself and just hoped I'd be able to get back. It leaves you (or you leave it) with a sense that just maybe if you took the wrong turn, you might not make it back. It's not scary but it is unsettling.

The adults in this book irk the crap out of me. I kind of half understand the mother's situation because she was married to a degenerate gambler for so long that was so afraid of people coming after him for money that he forced his family into solitude. I get that. But at the end of the day she was really self-involved and didn't so much care about how Elizah felt but more how people would view her because of Elizah's "abnormal" actions. She really wasn't a likable character and I'm not sure if she was supposed to be. She's damaged, yes, but I was in Elizah's head with her in every conversation she had with her mother going, "yeah, it's all about you, isn't it?" I felt it. I don't think you even needed to be an objective third party to know that.

The rest of the adults were kind of stock characters, cookie-cutter cut-outs that were way too into normal. But maybe that was the point. Maybe this overwhelming sense of suburbanite normalcy that ran throughout the book was a means to overcompensate for what they previously lived through. Sure, Dirk was too into playing the father-figure role and took it on way too quickly, but maybe that was the point. He's normal. Elizah's mother wanted normal and fast. I guess it fits.

I loved how Elizah's father was often compared to the actions of a ghost, flitting in and out of someone's life, neither there or not. A presence more than anything tangible. It described him perfectly; except for how much of a creep he really was. Big creep.

Nathaniel is the best part. It's pretty obvious from the beginning just what he is, and it's pretty easy to make the connections once the character start talking about local legends and Indian lore but I don't think it was meant to be subtle. But what was was Elizah's and Nathaniel's inherent connection to each other. That was subtle and I really liked how in the background it was kept. The notion of past lives was barely even scratched but it was there enough to make you question what was going on in that entire situation. It left a whole different, and separate, story lingering at the end that you wished was filled in but you're left to use just your imagination.

It's a sad love story and a sad friendship story really. The only people Elizah connects with are those in the cemetery and really, being a loner isn't all it's cracked up to be. But somehow the entire situation is settling for her. She accepts it for what it is and while she wants to ask more of it, she doesn't because she knows she won't get it.

It's a story about a loner that isn't as much of a loner as she thought she was. It's a ghost story and a love story. A story of loss and healing. But really, it's just a great story.

6 comments:

katie said...

I read this book not too long ago and I loved it too. And I totally agree with you about the adults in the book. They really got on my nerves. Great review!

Kris (Voracious YAppetite) said...

You make this book sound haunting and beautiful at the same time. I like your description of Nathaniel's village. Great review!

Oh, and "I have better things to do. Like talk to the voices in my head." Lol :-)

~The Book Pixie said...

Despite some iffy reviews I've read on this book, I've still really been wanting to read it and I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed it. Thanks for the review!

~Briana

Donna said...

Yeah, I think people are going either way on this one. I haven't read anyone really hating it but more like meh. I loved it, obviously! :)

Becki said...

This sounds like the type of book that I have to read. I can't believe how long my TBR list is getting now. It's actually becoming a bit depressing. I don't know how long it's going to take me to read all these books, but I estimate over a year, and I'm still adding more! Oh dear!

I was/am interested in forensic anthropology, so anything where human bones are discovered tends to get me going! Yay! lol

I'm a new follower!

Life After Jane said...

I bought this book per your recommendation. That is all.

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