Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech

I work with a Lizzie-type person. She doesn't take a breath, rattling through conversations like an auctioneer. Sometimes I want to make the timeout sign with my hands, other times I marvel at her yapping tongue. Lizzie Scatterding is Naomi Deane's best friend who has a good heart, is melodramatic, and can be annoyingly talkative.  Both girls are orphans living in the town of Blackbird Tree and their relationship and dialogue is one of the great strengths of this novel. Dizzy Lizzy repeats everything to factual Naomi to which she usually replies something like, "Lizzie, you crawdad. I'm not deaf."  She also asks so many questions that Naomi almost asks her to stop but remembers Joe saying "Lizzie could talk the ears off a cornfield, and it made me laugh, and I wrapped an arm around Lizzie."

Most of the people in Blackbird Tree have suffered in some way. Lizzie's mom died of a disease and her dad of grief, while Naomi's mom died in childbirth and her dad died of an infection caused from defending her from an attacking dog. It mangled Naomi's arm, but she doesn't dwell on it. The two girls don't want pity and when a teacher comes to town she can't believe all the tragic tales the students have in regards to family. Naomi says, "We thought we were normal. All any of us wanted was for somebody to care about us, and if we couldn’t have that, then at least somebody who wouldn’t be too mean and who would feed us from time to time.” When, the two girls meet the mysterious Finn boy, things become complicated as Naomi falls in love with him leading to jealous feelings toward Lizzie.

The terrific writing and the way Sharon Creech puts sentences together made me really enjoy this book. The characters are eccentric and a fantasty-like realism runs throughout the chapters that is quite unique. The play on words regarding names had me laughing such as Lizzie Scatterdinghead who is a scatterbrain and Dapper Dingle Dangle Doodle man, and the muddle-brained Mrs. Mudkin who never says, Naomi's, name correctly calling her "Neema" or "Raynee" to which Naomi replies it's "Nay-oh-me."

The alternate story of the two women in Ireland and the different characters named Finn or Paddy is not clear until the end. I take that back - some parts are clear while others are not. Naomi's Finn is a very confusing character. He's the fantasy element. I have no clue if he is an elf, fairy, leprechaun, or druid. He crops up in three generations of women and tries to cause a rift between friends. He's the ghost of girlfriends past. The gold at the end doesn't make sense to me either. I thought maybe it was the leprechaun's pot of gold and the girls would get three wishes, but that is not the case. Naomi's Finn tells them to not steal the gold in the beginning of the story and at the end we find out that Finnbar died because he stole it. Paddy/Finn wants the trunk because it has gold coins in it. It would have helped me if Paddy actually mentioned the coins in his confrontation with Sybil. The whole Irish folklore needed to be fleshed out and worked into the plot more to make sense to this wee lassie.

At the start of the novel the characters have a southern accent except Nula who sounds Irish but later Irish accents crop up in other characters and I got a little confused on the setting. The ending was rushed as everything was wrapped up neatly for all the women and townspeople. I think the unbelievable way in which everything turned out so well for each character is supposed to tie in with the magic of Irish folklore and wishes coming true but there isn't a strong connection to any specific legend, so I'm not sure how to analyze it. Like Lizzie, I am left with lots of questions and no pot of answers, but inspite of my confusion, I really enjoyed this story and the characters.

Reading Level 4.1
4 out of 5 Smileys

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