Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton

From Amazon's product description: Jane Hamilton, award-winning author of The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World brings us a rich and loving novel about a non-traditional family in the aftermath of a terrible accident.

When Aaron Maciver’s beautiful young wife, Madeline, suffers a head injury in a bicycle crash, she is left with the mental capabilities of a six-year-old. In the years that follow, Aaron and his second wife care for Madeline with deep tenderness and devotion as they raise two children of their own. Inspired in part by Elizabeth Spencer’s Light in the Piazza, Hamilton offers an honest and exquisite portrait of how a family tragedy forever shapes the boundaries of love.

This book is a peaceful yet strange journey. The story is told from the point of view of Madeline's younger "brother" although of course we know that really Madeline is his father's ex-wife so their relationship if Madeline wasn't disabled would be more like step-mother/step-son. Mac doesn’t tell the tale by starting at one point and moving chronologically through his memories. It just begins and then something leaps out and he tells all about a certain period. And then your back to present day and then you're off to history again. It meanders through their lives touching down here and there. Each piece is told so well that the imagery makes you feel like you are in the midst of the scene and each scene seems equally important to the whole book. The narration is excellent although the narrator pronounces some words very differently than I have heard them before and when that happens it kind of jars me from the tale and I wonder about him - is he from another country, is it a mistake that the producer didn’t catch, or maybe I have been mispronouncing this word or that word all my life? So I have to hit the rewind button and get back into the story! The story isn't funny but the author allows Mac to have such a dry wit that as you listen something unexpectedly funny will be said and all of a sudden you're laughing.

I could see this book as the basis for a television series. There are so many layers to the story that you couldn't just make a movie and do the tale justice. And there isn't a distinct story arc - not a single problem or relationship to explore and then tie up neatly - but rather there is a web of problems and relationships that make up a family. But a television show - something like the Walton's where you can tell the tale a bit at a time would be perfect! I've finished the book - all 9 Cd's - and I still want more. I want to know where each family member goes from here. I think Hamilton did a great job developing these characters into people I want to spend time with. And, even more amazing since Hamilton is the author of two Oprah picks - the characters aren't abusing each other but are loving each other! What a treat!

I've finished up the audio book challenge but I think I'll keep adding the extras as I finish them - a little extra credit. Perhaps I can apply any extra credit to my least productive challenge.

and this one too...
This is on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.

1 comment:

WA said...

I'm so glad I found your blog! I'm always looking for something to read and I can't wait to see all of your recommendations. I'll have to take a look at the new Jane Hamilton. I haven't liked her past few books, but this one sounds pretty good.