Don Vito: "You're not middle anything. You're top grade. Top grade, you hear me? Anybody else call you this middle thing, and I bust some knee caps. Capice?"
Monday, May 7, 2018
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: STICKY NOTES by Dianne Touchell
The latest novel from Australian author, Dianne Touchell. In Australia the title was Forgetting Foster, published by Allen and Unwin in 2016.
What It's About (from Goodreads):
For fans of Counting by 7’s and Fish in a Tree, a touching story about the power of love and family in the face of a parent’s early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Foster Sumner is ten years old. He likes toy soldiers, tadpole hunting, going to school, and the beach. Best of all, he likes listening to his dad’s stories.
But then Foster’s dad starts forgetting things. No one is too worried at first. Foster and Dad giggle about it. Dad would go out for milk and come back with cat food, when the cat had been dead for five years. But then the forgetting gets worse. And suddenly no one is laughing anymore.
A heartbreaking story about what it means to forget and to be forgotten, as well as the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and the strong families behind those who suffer from it.
"Foster smelled it first. A bitter smell like microwave popcorn popped too long. Except Dad wasn't making popcorn. dad was making bacon sandwiches."
What I Liked About It:
First off, I thought the writing was luminous, at times almost poetic. On every page, there's a fantastic phrase--just the right verb, or pinpoint adjective. Just opening the pages at random I find "Foster would run out back and climb that jacaranda... and sometimes he'd see his dad watching out the kitchen window, his stare rasping just like his walk." (What a lovely and descriptive word rasping is for a stare.)
This is a tough book. Tough subject matter--early onset Alzheimer's in a parent--and tough, unflinching characterizations. It had a fairy tale quality to it, and not just because Foster loves stories with dragons and princesses. Every character has a dark side--Touchell is most definitely not a writer given to sentimentality. She's thrown curve balls at almost everyone: Foster's mom is disfigured from an accident, and struggling just to make it with a spouse who is barely there mentally. Foster's aunt is a complicated character. She provides some balm for Foster, but just as often antagonizes her sister-in-law. Foster himself is angry and petulant at this terrible turn of events, and yet he perversely enjoys the interest of his classmates when he tells them of the "crazy" things his dad has done.
As such, it is difficult to know quite who this book's ideal reader is. Despite the character's young age (seven in the Australian edition, ten in the American), I think it would be a book better savored by older teens or adults. For writers, Touchell's sentences are worth studying, a reminder of the power of a well-chosen word. It makes me think of that quote by Mark Twain: "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning."
About the Author (from Goodreads):
Dianne Touchell is a middle child who feared Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy — and any other stranger who threatened to break into the house at night.
She has worked, amongst other things, as a nightclub singer, a fish and chip shop counter girl, and a bookseller. Dianne would rather talk to her dog than answer the phone.
Dianne's other novels are Creepy and Maud and A Small Madness. I liked her writing so much I have the other books on order!
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