Tuesday, March 26, 2013

One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

Dang, I was confused reading this book. Granted it wasn't all the author's fault. I've turned into a loopy menopausal reader which means momentary brain shutdowns. At least that's my excuse. I also DESPERATELY NEED SPRING BREAK! First, I thought Quincehead was a parrot. He ain't. He's a gawl dong blasted dog. If you read too fast the word, Cockapoo, is quite similar to cockatoo. Then I read Bert and Evie as Bert and Ernie. Their spitfire dialogue made me think they were hyperactive ten-year-old twins (I've been teaching a few lately). They ain't. They're a husband and wife who like to use the word "ain't" and quirky sentences such as "No people is different, is all." The description of Ked made me think he was a special needs kid. He ain't either. Some terrific lines and oddball characters kept me flipping the pages, but I was left scratching me head when it came to plot and I skimmed parts.

I think the main point of the story was that Primrose doesn't have a best friend and she makes one in Ked... not that I was on my top reading behavior. The subplot is her playing matchmaker with Uncle Jack and Miss Bowzer. This goal gets lost at times as the plot wanders. I wasn't sure why the teacher Miss Conner had to go and Miss Larkin had to replace her except that the author loved the awful poems Miss Larkin wrote. They are funny but they don't advance the plot. The theme of teachers having such tough jobs that they get mental illness lacked authenticity and kind of irked me.

Primrose has long interior monologues and sounds like an adult more often than a twelve-year-old child. When she was fighting with Eleanor I thought she finally sounded like a child. Usually her humor is adult-like and I'm not sure if it will appeal to kids. Sure, I laughed, but is a twelve-year-old going to have that much wisdom? Particularly when it comes to romance? For example, "I forgot that Uncle Jack was a lefty and sat next to Miss Bowzer, where his cutting arm kept knocking into hers, which might have been a good thing if she'd been a sly, flirty, go-ahead-and-knock-into-me-with-your-knife-arm-you-big-lug type. But she wasn't. She was more the I'm-going-to-try-to-ignore-the-line-of-bruises-forming-up-my-arm type. If I was less invested in their future happiness, I might have found it entertaining. Well, all right, it was entertaining anyway." I laughed, but thought she sounded more like a fourteen or fifteen-year-old. Sometimes the audience felt YA with the touched on themes of drugs and abuse and romance, but nothing is gone into great depth so perhaps it is fine.

I liked lines here and there such as, "It is a terrible thing to have pockets of emptiness where something or someone should be. I felt it when my parents were missing," but I found other lines confusing or too many asides, such as when granny and the Hacky Sack boy were talking about him being a hair stylist. I kept waiting for the complete story regarding the parents being lost at sea for a year, but it is never elaborated on. How can you be lost at sea for a year and survive? I grew up in the middle of the country so perhaps this is a dumb question? I know that the "lost at sea" angle is used so that Primrose has empathy toward Ked, but Horvath emphasizes it so much, I thought there was more to it.

The use of mini-marshmallows as an object that has many different meanings for different characters is clever. Evie uses them to make people feel better. When a character is having a rough patch, Evie is always there with food. I ate more food reading this book because of all the food references. Horvath has recipes at the end of the chapters and many scenes take place in a restaurant. The end-of-chapter recipes reminded me of Hattie Mae's articles in "Moon Over Manifest." In both novels, I read them at first, then skipped them at the end. That's just me. I like sticking to the story. Make sure you read this on a full stomach or you'll be like me reaching for some snack every time you curl up in your favorite reading spot.

One last thing, and this is a SPOILER so don't read on if you don't want to know... the opening scene has a dog being put to sleep. Unless you are like me and think it is a parrot being put to sleep. Doesn't have the same emotional punch as a dog dying. Later on another dog gets hit by a car and killed. The deaths reveal Primrose dealing with the loss of her friend Ked and her mother giving her advice on dealing with death, but I think readers who are sensitive to the loss of an animal will be turned off. Just pretend it is a cockatoo, not a Cockapoo. My spell checker just asked me if I meant Kickapoo. If you like word play and understated humor, then give this book a go. If not, give it a kick-a-poo.

Reading Level 5.0
3 out of 5 Smileys

No comments:

Post a Comment