Thursday, March 6, 2014

Unhooking the Moon by Gregory Hughes

I loved to cross-country ski on the Red River by Fargo, ND, with my sheep dog, ski-skating at high speeds. Relatives protested my solitary exercise for what if I fell through the ice? Northern Minnesota is generally one solid block of ice in the winter, but there are always drownings from either snowmobile or ice-fishing accidents. Those concerned relatives took away my peaceful days on the river replacing them with thoughts of collapsing into frigid waters. I was so mad that I let those fears take root. Marie Claire Debillier has fears, but hers are of pedophiles and being alone. She has visions that leave her shaken because they generally come true. She recognizes a person by his or her spirit in a way that is not normal. She sees people after they are dead which makes her quite practical about death. Her brother, Bob, is the narrator and he swings from annoyance to fascination with his sister as they go on an adventure to find their uncle. While the book says 9-12, it is more for the young adult, with quite a bit of swearing and topics such as death, drugs, and child abuse. It's a book written for the "knowing child" versus the "innocent" child.

Twelve-year-old Bob and ten-year-old Marie Claire's mom died three years earlier and they are living in Winnipeg with their dad. Their transportation to and from school is paddling on the Red River in a canoe. They are free spirits with an odd assortment of friends. Bob has a crush on his teacher and Marie Claire suffers from seizures that give her visions of the future. It isn't clear what is medically wrong with Marie Claire although it appears that she has epilepsy and suffers from grand mal seizures. When their dad dies, the two decide to find their uncle in New York. With no address or phone number and the only clue that he is a drug dealer, the two hop a train and travel east in search of him. They end up in New York meeting all sorts of oddballs before finding answers.

This story is really about siblings and their relationships. I couldn't help but think of how much I did with my brother and how he was fascinated and annoyed with me at times. He'd push me when annoyed or slug me in the arm, but then protect me if someone else hurt me. In touch football I got creamed by a guy that injured my neck and my brother hit him so hard in retaliation that he had to leave the game. Bob is the same way with Marie Claire. He shouts at her and protects her. Except Marie Claire likes trouble and lives each day like it is her last on this earth. She's a bit of a wild girl that thinks of fun as joining a hustler on the street and turning it into an acting audition. When she gets into serious trouble Bob goes to extremes to get help from adults. I know my brother would have done the same.

The characterization of Marie Claire is interesting but she acts too old for a grade 5 child. Her dialogue sounds like an adult. It is funny so I didn't mind, but all the coffee she drank and comments that an adult would say that comes from experience didn't ring true. She's a goofy duck who is entertaining but lacks authenticity. Bob spends most of his time reacting to Marie Claire and he bored me after a while. While there is plenty of external tension, by the time they got to New York his patterns were repetitive of just protecting Marie Claire or being annoyed. I wanted more explanations on Marie Claire's medical condition and Bob's character to change more. The ending came off as too abrupt and while I liked the beginning of the book, I lost interest from New York with Ice and the aftermath.

The plot has quite a few conveniences that are supposed to highlight the personality magnet of Marie Claire, but they felt contrived to me. Joey, Ice, and the homeless man to name a few. A plot technique I am somewhat tired of is the use of dreams to foreshadow the plot. This book uses Marie Claire's seizures as such. For me, the plot becomes too predictable. I know it is supposed to add tension, but I get annoyed by them. This is a matter of taste on my part. I have some friends that like realistic fiction and they really liked this book with its small bit of magical realism and kooky characters. It did have its moments for me. You'll have to decide for yourself.

3 Smileys

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