Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Sometimes the most popular novels make me just shake my head and say, “Huh?”  This is one of them.  It’s not just that it’s a fantasy, or maybe magical realism, whatever that means.  A child being protected from evil spirits by a fairy ring?  At least the book is mercifully short, and I didn’t really hate it; I just didn’t get it or its appeal.  An unnamed man returns to his childhood home for a funeral for an unnamed relative and relives an episode in which his evil nanny tried to destroy him.  I would say, “tried to kill him,” but that would not be entirely accurate, since some characters may vanish into a pond/ocean with an expectation to return in the distant future.  The man’s scary childhood memories begin with the death of a cat, the near-swallowing of a coin, the theft of a car, and the suicide of a gambler.  Our narrator becomes involved in a battle between the forces of good and evil, where a young girl (Lettie), her mother, and her grandmother, all of whom have lived forever and possess superpowers, represent the forces of good, like female Jedi knights.  They rather recklessly lead the boy into danger and then give their all to extricate him from a situation in which he has become sort of a portal for the above-mentioned nanny, who seduces the boy’s father and drives the father to torture his own son.  The nanny is one of several representatives of evil that take on different forms and do battle with the henchmen of Lettie and company, who are in some ways just as frightening. The book is not really gruesome, though—at least not any more gruesome than some of the more grisly fairy tales.  The author seems to be trying to bestow an everyman quality on the narrator with all the vagueness about names, but the protagonist’s experiences are anything but commonplace.  I don’t think the author intended for this whole memory of a supernatural battle to be just a dream, but I kept thinking that our boy just needed some ruby slippers so that he could return to the real world.

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