So far so good on my contemporary-fantasy-fast. In the past two and a half weeks I’ve read To Come and Go Like Magic, Ida B, and I finally finished The Botany of Desire. [Like whoa on The Botany of Desire.]
Today I review, for your reading pleasure, To Come and Go Like Magic. If you’ve read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, you’ll know what I mean when I say this: sparkling, poignant vignettes. [Um, I actually haven’t read Cisneros’s book in its entirety, just a couple of vignettes while doing classroom observations. But I plan to read it. Maybe soon.] To Come and Go Like Magic is an entire novel written in sweet, two-to-four page chapters. But they’re not really chapters because they do everything a novelist is not supposed to do when trying to create suspense and keep the reader turning the page. Each vignette has a beginning, middle, and (kiss of death for chapters) an end. There’s a sense of completion, which made each vignette feel like its own poem, its own work of art.
Beautiful writing and the main character’s voice add to the magic in this book. The setting is also unique: Chileda is twelve years old, growing up in the 1970s in a small town in the Appalachian mountains. Her thirst is to see the world, and this thirst conflicts with her micro-society’s expectation that you just don’t leave home.
A suspenseful novel this is not. Piercing, pretty, quiet – yes.
On a total sidenote, is there something about middle grade fiction that requires at least one scene of total and absolute unfair action towards the main character? I’m thinking of the scene here where Chili’s uncle does something so unfair I wanted to reach into the pages and strangle him. A similar thing happens in Ida B, and if you haven’t met the Dursleys in the Harry Potter books, you’re missing out on some prime injustice writing.
My guess is that one of the extremely irritating things about being a middle-grader (ages 9-12) is the discovery that the world isn’t fair, in so many startling ways. And perhaps these novels are working to address that universal, middle-grader issue.
But I need to conclude my actual book review, so: To Come and Go Like Magic is a quiet gem, and a huge turn from my vampire biting, werewolf howling, demon slaying contemporary fantasies. In one word: refreshing.
To read more about To Come and Go Like Magic, check out the Q & A session posted on Katie Pickard Fawcett’s blog.