By Lou Aronica
Published 201, The Fiction Studio
Paperback, 394 pages
Do not begin this novel unless you are prepared to be moved, willing to open your heart, and available to the possibility that life can bring you magic.Getting into this book was a tad slow since there was alot of back story to get through before I felt like I understood what was occurring in the present time of the book. Once I got through that, there were a few things that I could easily predict about the plot. First, the plot would very much favor the father over the mother in regards to the relationship shared with the main character, fourteen-year-old Becky. Second, it is inevitable that Becky's leukemia is going to relapse. Third, this fantasy world of Tamarisk would somehow play a part in both Becky's disease and her parent's ugly divorce.
Chris Astor is a man in his early forties who is going through the toughest stretch of his life. Not long before, Chris' world sparkled - he was doing significant work, he had a good home, and his young daughter brought him more joy than he ever could have imagined. Now, divorce and estrangement have left him confused and all too often alone.
Becky is Chris' fourteen-year-old daughter, a girl who overcame enormous challenges in her early years to become a vibrant, vital young woman. Her parents' divorce has left its mark, though, most significantly in her relationship with her father. Once, they told remarkable stories together. Now, they barely speak. Emotional detachment from Chris is not Becky's biggest concern, though.
Miea is the young queen of a fantasy land that Becky and Chris created when Becky was little - a fantasy land that has developed a life of its own. Miea knows nothing of Becky and Chris. She only knows that her beautiful kingdom - a place of remarkably varied flora, dignified and distinctive fauna, and an ecology that works in symphonic majesty - is in terrible, maybe fatal trouble.
At the most challenging junctures of their lives, Becky and Miea discover each other and Miea shares this discovery with Chris. For Becky, it is nearly inconceivable that a place she created has come into existence. For Miea, it is nearly inconceivable that a child created her land. For Chris, it is beyond inconceivable that he is again sharing something important in his daughter's life. For all of them, it as though a world of opportunity has opened up before them.
But time is not on their side. In fact, time might be running out.
Together, they need to uncover a secret. The secret to why these worlds have joined at this moment. The secret to their purpose. The secret to the future. It is a secret that, when discovered, will redefine imagination for all of them.
Blue is a novel of trial and hope, invention and rediscovery. It might very well take you someplace you never knew existed. Do not, however, begin it unless you are prepared to be moved.
What I could not predict was how absolutely fascinating the world of Tamarisk is. I actually thought about researching all of the made-up names of the plants, animals, and geology before I completely realized the depth of creativity to which Becky and her father Chris went in the creation of this fantasy world. What began as a coping mechanism for a young child going through the rigors of chemotherapy became a world in an alternate universe that existed with its own laws of physics. I was completely enthralled by this unbelievable world of blue foliage, black dirt, microfarming, moldable crystal, smelling of chocolate and raspberries, and featuring transportation in the form of giant flying birds - and that is only the beginning of all that this world holds to tantalize the senses and ignite the imagination. Becky's voyages into Tamarisk alone are enough to fill countless children's stories that would hold any grown adult rapt with wonder.
On the alternate side of this fantastic world is the grievous reality of the ongoing feud between Chris and Polly, Becky's divorced parents. Even though Polly has remarried, she still harbors intensely negative feelings towards Chris. In addition, Chris's whole life is about finding ways to connect with Becky better, as the reader watches him fail at blind date after blind date. Becky wants so badly to hang onto her life that she lives in denial of her increasingly-severe symptoms. My heart went out to all of the characters at different points as I connected with the different emotions and situations. As a mother, I can not even fathom one of my children going through the horrors of childhood cancer, and as a wife, the thought of abandoning my spouse is inconceivable, especially during such a difficult time. My heart broke for Becky's best friend Lonnie, and I felt the awkward sadness of Becky's stepfather Al. These characters are as real as if this story were not fiction, but a memoir or biography.
I could not help noticing the parallels between belief in Tamarisk and the beliefs of Christianity. Polly either could not or would not believe in Tamarisk, and many of her arguments against it matched the common ones against a belief in the existence of God and Heaven.
The ending was bittersweet, but light on bitter and rich on sweet. I shed a tear, but Chris's perspective was very fitting for how I felt about this conclusion. This was a very, very good read that would enrich any reader's book collection. What I gained from this book will stick with me for a long time to come.
The Cover: A simple cover for a simple title, it is is not immediately apparent what the significance of the color is, but this works quite well for the book.
First Line: "The soft whir of the DVD player was the only sound in the room. Chris sat on the sofa opposite the television, the remote control in his hand, though he didn't intend to use it. He would just let the machine continue fast-forwarding."
Nothing about this opening pulls me into the story, and in truth is somewhat depressing to watch Chris in his nostalgia. Good thing this changes.
Favorite Quote: "You're my heart."
Read For: Off The Shelf Challenge
*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*