Monday, July 24, 2006

Unseen Companion by Denise Gosliner Orenstein

At first this book felt really disagreeable to my system. I can’t stand green jello with pineapple chunks and abhor reading about people making it and serving it. I get depressed reading about young girls who live on the frozen tundra where summer means endless flat wastelands of mud and brown weeds and boring afternoons painting one’s toenails. Odd, lonely girls with southern accents who live in trailers on the tundra are even more unbearable. Then there are the snot-nosed orphans in this story who live in an even more miserable trailer and get moved to farther away places as soon as they make a friend… It is just too darn much like a Flannery O’Conner novel, and I can’t stand those.

In spite of my distaste for the emphasis on dust, grime, dampness, mud, bad smells and instant potato flakes, I came to realize this book is masterfully written and I couldn’t let myself look away. The characters are well developed, each having a distinct personality and perspective. The story is told alternating between the voices of four young people, as described in the flyleaf:

Lorraine Hobbs, a precocious loner who brings meals to the prison;
Annette Weinland, the local minister’s daughter, who volunteers at the prison;
Thelma Cooke and Edgar Kwagley, two Yup’ik adolescents orphaned and displaced from their native communities.

The drama revolves around a boy named Dove Alexie, a half-breed orphan who shows himself as intelligent, vocal, and full of rage. He gets into trouble at the boarding school and is sent away. He is held over night at the local jail because the children’s home is full the night he is brought in. He gets beaten up by the assistant marshal and turns up missing. When Lorraine starts to get attached to solving the mystery of what happened to him, she starts to grow up.

I always pictured Alaska as beautiful and magical. This novel shows it as poor, drunk, racist and beaten down. Here’s a reality check; a view the tourist don’t see. Put this book on your list to read and pass it on to the teens in your life.


Suzanne said...

I love your blog. It is my very very favorite blog and I thought I should delurk.



cloudscome said...

Wow that is so sweet! I have to ask how you found me. Yours is the first Russian adoption blog I have read. I'll have to spend some time reading up on you! :)

Suzanne said...

I think I just hit "next Blog" one night and then bookmarked it. I've been reading for awhile.

I like kitties, and good books, and gardens, and small children, and technology, and writing, and the life of home and the life of mind. So you can see how your blog feeds many of my interests.

cloudscome said...

I love your avatar! :) It seems we have a lot in common. I am so glad to meet you!