What’s on my nightstand? Saffy’s Angel, by Hilary McKay.
My SIL put this on my Recommended Reading list years ago. It’s the first in a series of books about the Casson family, hailing from England. That bit about England is supposed to be revealing. Does it mean anything to you? To me, it says “possibly off-beat, quirky, funny, and/or dark.” It’s the first three, but not the last.
The story is about Saffron, aka “Saffy,” who discovers at the age of eight that her three siblings, Cadmium (Caddy), Indigo, and Rose, are actually her cousins, and her mother, Eve, is really her aunt. Saffy’s own mother, Eve’s twin, died in a car crash when Saffy was three.
Though her siblings assure Saffy it makes no difference that she is adopted, and their actions bear this out, she can’t shake the feeling that she is different and doesn’t really belong.
When the kids’ grandfather dies, he leaves behind something for each of them: his house for Caddy, his car for Indigo, his fortune for Rose, and an angel for Saffy. The house and car are beyond use and repair, there’s not much money, and Saffy’s angel is a mystery, what it is and where it is. But it’s hers, all hers, and Saffy wants it, and her devoted siblings and new friend want it for her.
That sounds like the makings of a solid straightforward plot, but that’s misleading. In fact, Saffy’s Angel is an episodic novel told from an onmiscient point of view. Scenes of Caddy’s desperately needed and terrifyingly funny driving lessons, or Indigo’s determination to overcome fear by jumping out his window, or Rose’s deliberate and successful manipulation of their father to keep him out of the way do nothing to forward the plot I’ve described, but they allow us to get to know and love the Cassons who are part of Saffy’s search for her angel and her place in the family.
Actually, the episodic nature of the book suits the Casson family to a T. They live in a kind of chaos, all busy with their own odd pursuits, but the connections between them are solid. The strength of the book lies in the chaos, quirky characters, and the heartwarming kindness and support the kids exhibit toward one another.
Many times, good characters come across as cloying or flat. Not the Casson kids. Hmm…I want to think about that.
Your turn. What are you reading?
I’ve enjoyed several wonderful books lately:
The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. This is the story of the evolution of some of the finer points of football, most notably the short-passing game and the increasing importance of the left tackle. To examine these trends closely, the author tells us the story of Michael Oher (pronounced oar), one of thirteen children of an alcoholic mother. Often not knowing where his next meal was coming from, and not sleeping in a real bed until the age of 15, and never physically cared for by his mother,Michael stumbles upon the Tuohy family. They’re rich and white. He’s dirt poor, black, and HUGE (6′ 5″, 340 pounds). Having never played football before, and only having gone to school sporadically, Michael thrives in the home of the Tuohys and becomes part of their family. Literally. He begins school with a GPA of 0.56 in his junior year. With an incredible amount of support and much courage and determination, Michael Oher quickly catches the eye of every Division I college in the US, and then is offered full scholarships to every single one. He meets the NCAA-required GPA of 2.56, after 2 years of very hard work. Not only is he a hulk of a man, he’s also a gifted, natural athlete, and surprisingly light on his feet. This is his story, and it’s awesome!!! (Do you like my run-on paragraph? I’ve never attempted a synopsis before, but I can’t say enough good about this book. I already liked football; this book gave me a fuller understanding of the sport. Although it happened after publication of this book, Michael Oher went on to be a first round draft choice of…you guessed it…my very favorite team, the Baltimore Ravens! This is his rookie year.)
Another great read: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, told from the point of view of a dog. Heartfelt and believable, the book stayed with me after I read it. I definitely recommend.
Two YA books: To continue on my football trend, Gym Candy by Carl Deuker. This is the story of a high school athlete who is enticed by steroids. Interesting and thought provoking for the young man who reads it, I think.
And, Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. This is one of the YA books that I’ve read that I’ve enjoyed a great deal. The book has extreme drama as its basis: a meteor hits the moon, sending it out of its orbit, causing tsunamis, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, etc. While drama is at its core, the focus of the book was survival, and what one family in particular did to survive. We see how the family bonds grow and strengthen, and the importance these bonds have in their lives. It seemed very real. In fact, when the rocket was scheduled to hit the moon a few weeks ago, I had a good case of the willies. I thought it was fully plausible that the collision could result in just those conditions I read about in Life As We Knew It.
I’ve already talked this book up with some other parents of YAs, hoping to get them on the bandwagon, too.
I’ve heard of Life As We Knew It but haven’t read it. I’ll put it on my list.
It’s fun to hear what you’re reading. Thanks for sharing!