Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some Kind of Wonder(ful)

There’s an old adage that for a person to really internalize a message, they need to hear about it from three different sources.  That’s what it took for me to pick up Wonder When You'll Miss Me by Amanda Davis and read it.  I’m so glad I did.

I first came across this title on a list of books with a circus setting – I love to read books about the circus life.  Then I saw it mentioned in the list of Alex Award winners – a prize given to adult books that will appeal to teen readers as well.  Finally, and tragically, I heard about Amanda Davis from her obituary – she died in a plane crash in the North Carolina mountains, along with her parents, who were flying her around the country on her book tour.

Amanda Davis was young and had published only one other work – a collection of short stories called Circling the Drain – but was highly regarded as both a writer and a human being, evidenced in her online memorial at McSweeney's.  It is truly a tragedy that Ms. Davis died so young – if her first novel is evidence of what was to come, we were in for some wonderful storytelling and fine writing.

Wonder When You’ll Miss Me is the story of Faith Duckle, who is fifteen and overweight when the novel opens.  Teenage cruelty and a brutal sexual assault lead her to an attempted suicide and rehab.  She returns to school 50 pounds lighter and ready to start over, but finds that nothing much has changed, including other’s perceptions of her.  Faith’s struggles to reconcile her desire to just “fit in” with her growing urge for retribution and revenge lead to more violence and ultimately her running off, renaming herself, and joining up with a traveling circus.  In the circus she finds work, family and the strength to face her former self and to reach new heights – both within herself and on the high-flying trapeze she learns to master.  Davis’s story is at once brutal and funny, dark and heartwarming – she was such a capable writer that you will find yourself both laughing and crying at Faith’s coming of age story.  Few novels can start with a horrific gang rape and end with a young woman’s hopeful transformation - and ring true with authenticity and honesty on every page in between. 

Hopefully, hearing about this book just once will be enough for you to pick it up and read it.  You’ll be glad you did.

Susan, LPL Marketing

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