Wolf Hollow

9781101994825_p0_v2_s192x300     Bullies are mean and terrorizing.  Lauren Wolk’s coming of age novel Wolf Hollow demonstrates how ruthless and damaging lies and bullies can be.  Targeted for a young audience, the story’s message is appropriate for adults, reminding them not only of their responsibility to be aware of prejudicial labelling and scapegoating but also of the consequences of intolerance when left unchecked.

Although the story is set  in Western Pennsylvania in 1943, the theme is universal and could be happening today.  Annabelle, a precocious twelve year old who lives on a farm with her brothers and parents, narrates the story.  Betty, the new mean girl at school, who has been sent to live with her grandparents because she is “incorrigible” threatens Annabelle and her brothers; Betty is a “dark-hearted girl,” without morals or remorse, who beats Annabelle with a stick and breaks a bird’s neck.

Toby, the unshaven and tattered reclusive veteran of World War I,  roams the hills with his empty guns on his back; his mental health and morals are suspect and neighbors tolerate him as long as he stays out of the way.  But Annabelle’s mother, as well as Annabelle, see a harmless kind man with scars on his hand from the war, who lives a solitary life recovering from the horrors he faced as a soldier.  When Toby comes to Annabelle’s rescue from Betty,  Betty’s vengeful lies escalate to blame Toby for her own actions when she blinds a classmate and later tries to harm Annabelle’s brothers.

Betty’s determination to frame Toby awakens Annabelle’s protective instinct for the innocent man, and the plot turns into a series of soul-wrenching decisions and suspense as Betty unexpectedly disappears, and Annabelle determines her role in deciphering and exposing the truth.

The action escalates at the end, leading to a jarring but realistic conclusion.  Annabelle learns a lesson many adults are still grappling with:

“The stone made me aware for the first time that my life, however long, would amount to nothing more than a flicker. Not even a flicker. Not even a sigh…

And I decided that there might be things I would never understand, no matter how hard I tried. Though try I would.

And that there would be people who would never hear my one small voice, no matter what I had to say.

But then a better thought occurred, and this was the one I carried away with me that day:  If my life was to be just a single note in an endless symphony, how could I not sound it out for as long and as loudly as I could?”

Beautifully written…a book adults should discuss…

 

 

 

Advertisements

Death Comes to Pemberly

P.D. James is still very much alive at 91 years old, but her writing style in Death Comes to Pemberley is eerily Jane Austen. If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice, you will recognize all the 19th century characters, and comfortably fall into the rhythm of silver polishing, gossip, and courtships. If you are missing Downton Abbey, the upstairs/downstairs references at Pemberley, Darcy’s elaborate estate, will sooth you – but not for long – this is a murder mystery.

For those who have never read Austen’s classic (or seen the movie adaptations), James reminds readers of the storyline in her prologue, and continues to educate readers of the characters’ backstories throughout the plot, and at times, offering her own insights into the characters’ motivations.

A proper after-dinner gathering at the Pemberley estate is abruptly interrupted by Lydia, Elizabeth’s erstwhile sister now married to that rogue Wickham, screaming that someone has been shot in the nearby woods. A search through the dense fog uncovers the body and a bloody drunken companion.

As the plot slowly develops with a number of clever red herrings, P.D. James inserts humorous observations worthy of Jane Austen…

“It is generally accepted that divine service affords a legitimate opportunity for the congregation to assess not only the appearance, deportment, elegance, and possible wealth of new arrivals to the parish, but the demeanour of any of their neighbours known to be in an interesting situation…A brutal murder on one’s own property…will produce a large congregation, including some well-known invalids whose prolonged indisposition had prohibited them from the rigours of church attendance for many years.”

James mentions that a few of the jurors during the trial testimony of the accused murderer seem to have dozed off; you might feel the same – until James jolts you back into the action with another dead body, and has you fastracking to the whodunit – with a few embellishments before the drama is over.

An Agatha Christie mystery with last-minute revelations in Jane Austen language, Death at Pemberley is an easy fun read, with so many references to Pride and Prejudice that you won’t mind tripping over a few dead bodies.