Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 9/1/08 (US)
Blurb (GR): "What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.
Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.
In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future
A lot of people think that Henry David Thoreau* went to Walden to live a solitary life. I felt like that until I actually went to Walden Pond. Imagine my surprise when some friends and I decided to go for a hike, go for a swim and check out the scenery--we left Boston around 9...and we got there by 9:30. Yeah right, HDT, I could live deliberately in the woods, too, if I knew my transcendentalist cronies would bring me a Cinnabon and some pumpkin ale once in awhile.** Nevertheless, Thoreau’s idea served as the inspiration for Yeats’ poem Lake Isle of Innisfree*** from which Melina Marchetta quotes in this novel. Yeats, who looks a little like Kenneth from 30 Rock, wrote about Innisfree because, to him, it served as an idyllic place where he could always go for peace and solitude. (I find it rather amusing that both Thoreau and Yeats wrote fascinating works about livin’ la vida simple that become so popular. Lesson: If you find a perfect place, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF) But Marchetta's magnificent storytelling was only enhanced by her reference to Yeats' poem. Instead of pounding quotations into your head, like a sad number of authors do, Marchetta only mentioned Innisfree once in passing...but it stuck with me through the rest of the book.
I don’t want to go into the plot of this book too deeply, for the point I took away from the book is that we all have those idyllic places we go to in our minds. For some of the characters in this novel, their Innisfree was with family, or with their childhood friends, or even just spending time with one particular person. It doesn't have to be a place at all. No matter how far we get away from those memories, they are always all polished up in our minds like the Hope Diamond when we need to imagine a perfect place in time.
Marchetta’s characters, as usual, were intriguing and fleshed out. It is constantly amazing to me that I can read a book and be unable to visualize even the protagonist, while this author is able to give me an extensive cast of characters and I feel like each one of them is someone I know. From Santangelo to Griggs to Raffy to the Brigadier, I understood where they were coming from and could reasonable predict what they would do in a situation. Very rarely was I frustrated with choices that characters made. I also have no idea how Marchetta can make my heart hurt one moment and make me hysterically laugh the next.
I must admit that the territory war aspect of the novel was not my favorite, though I understand its place in the overall story. The transfer back and forth between Taylor's present day and Hannah's story was rough for the first fourth or so of the book. If you try it and get stuck, please truck through it--it is so worth it.
As I knock each of Melina Marchetta’s book off my to-be-read stack, I am a little more sad. When I’m done with them, how long will I have to wait for a new one?
*The Wikipedia entry for HDT informs me that he wore a “neckbeard” for many years and insisted many women found it attractive. 1) I never knew that hideousness had a name; and 2) If you are a woman that finds a neckbeard attractive and we are friends on here, just go ahead and defriend me.
**He was only 1.5 miles from his homeboy Emerson’s house.
***This poem is the shit.
EDIT: I listened to the first third or so of this book and read the rest in book form. The audiobook was great but I wanted to read it faster. The only negative for the audiobook was the annoying DMB-type music that played between every chapter and at the beginning and end of every disc.