Friday, July 25, 2014
My Love For Tracy Holczer's THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY (And A Giveaway)
"Writing would help me through it, just like it always had. And where I used to think that writing was like the little hole in a teakettle to let out steam, I figured it was more than that. I hoped the hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of words I wrote down would help me fill the empty place left by Mama and make me whole." (The Secret Hum of a Daisy, pages 282-283)
The words above are those of 12-year-old Grace, the narrator of Tracy Holczer's luminous debut novel. Every writer, I'm sure, can embrace such a sentiment. For how many times does writing fill our empty places and make us whole? I know it does for me.
Grace has lost her mother in a freak accident. It turns out to be the biggest loss of many losses in her life. Her father and her grandfather were killed in a car accident before she was born, which had a connection with her grandmother sending her mother (pregnant with Grace) away. How could anyone find forgiveness in all this? Especially since now Grace has ended up with the very grandmother whom see believes to be the cause of all her troubles?
The novel starts with Grace's mother's funeral, and her being taken home by her grandmother. There are many humorous scenes, where she tries to put a "Plan B" into effect, trying to force her grandmother to send her back to the friends she lived with at the time of her mother's death. (Laundry detergent being sneakily replaced by dishwashing soap, anyone?) The emotional heft of the novel feels intensely realistic, as Grace moves through her anger and resentment to some understanding of her mother, her grandmother, and herself.
The setting--a small town an hour away from Sacramento--and the cast of characters are captivating. All of them figure in the treasure hunt (a hunt both literal and figurative) which leads Grace to a greater knowledge of herself.
Finally, I loved the way the characters were so richly realized. It would have been easy to "let them off the hook," but each character is flawed--and therefore alive--in their own way. This is the sort of novel that resonates with a reader long after the final page is read and the cover closed. I wouldn't be surprised to hear the words "Newbery" whispered about it.
As for me, in my other blogging life, I am a tough old prune of a Middle Grade Mafioso. You wouldn't expect a 50-something, former Brit like me to be dabbing my eyes with a handkerchief--but believe me, I did so a number of times while reading this glorious book. (I did the same during A Bridge to Terabithia and at the ending of Charlotte's Web.) As a result, I am going to send one lucky winner a copy of this novel, so you can laugh and cry as much as I did. I'm also hoping to have Tracy Holzcer send me an inscribed bookplate for the winner. (You can learn more about Tracy Holczer at her website. There's also a great interview with her by Natalie Aguirre of Literary Rambles.)
All you have to do to be a winner is comment on this post. To add to the fun, choose a number between 1 and 312 and I will gift you with some lines from your chosen page. And believe me, each page has at least one line, if not several, which made me go "Wowzers!"
Thanks for supporting the Mayhem. You have until one minute before midnight PST on Monday the 28th to leave your comment and have a chance of winning. Winner will be notified on the blog on 7/29. U.S./Canada entries only, please.