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Monday, September 7, 2009

Something Rich and Strange - Patricia A. McKillip

Read for the RIP IV and Patricia A. McKillip Challenges.

“She opened her drawing pad and sat there, drawing the stairs she remembered from her dream. They began in the tide, each ebbing wave revealing another step, and then another. As she drew, the mists overhead blew inland and sunlight streaked the water. She made the steps out of pearls and kelp leaf, coral, scallop shells, the first step visible where the first wave broke, and the others sloping down, while the waves scrolled above them. As they descended into deep water, she drew kelp forests and seals and perch, sharks, the great winged rays, the whales that swam along her path. On the top step, she drew the sea hare.

She looked up then, and saw the light glistening, breaking, glistening on something that the waves, stroke by stroke, were excavating like a lost city from the sand. She dropped paper and pen and ran, leaping off the rocks into the shallow surf, splashing through tide, deeper and deeper until she reached the first white step.”

Megan and Jonah live together by the sea. He runs a shop and finds fossils at the seashore, and she draws seascapes that he sells in his shop. On the day that Megan meets a man named Adam, who brings the most beautiful jewelry to the shop that they have ever seen, Jonah hears the song of a strange women and is entranced by it. These two strangers are more than they appear, and before long, Jonah is trapped beneath the sea by a mermaid’s song, and Megan must rescue him.

This is the first McKillip book I’ve read that’s set in the present day. While the language is as beautiful as I expect from any McKillip book, the story over all came across as unexpectedly preachy. Understand, I love the ocean. I’ve lived by it all my life (though by the Atlantic, and she clearly describes the Pacific), and I worry about what we humans are doing to the ocean. This book ended up as a demand to work to fix what humans have done to the ocean, and while I’m completely sympathetic to that idea, there was something about that ending that just didn’t jive with me, and I’m surprised by that. It’s still a lovely book, but as a Patricia McKillip fan, there’s something missing that I expect to find from her, and that ultimately lessened my enjoyment of the book. I’d still recommend it, but with strange reservations.

1 comment:

Carl V. said...

I'm a big fan of her work and am sorry to hear that this one is heavy handed on the message. I don't mind a message in a book, but I prefer it to be more subtle, especially when it comes to environmental issues. Stories that preach the message to heavily end up being very one-sided and tend to frustrate me. Thanks for the honest review.