Sunday, February 10, 2008

Manitoba's Jazz Singing, Book Writing, Jewel

I've known of Martha Brooks for years -- she's a well established writer of YA fiction in Canada, and a very accomplished jazz singer to boot, yet it's taken me until the past few months to finally get down to reading some of her work. I was first introduced to her writing with the short story, The Kindness of Strangers, which eventually became the novel Being With Henry. (The short story was part of the collection, Traveling On Into the Light.) It was a fabulous story -- most memorable to me was the well-wrought characters with such vivid descriptions of the main protagonists, a runaway boy who is befriended by an elderly man. You just know that every word has been well thought out and serves the story well.

So, with such a wonderful introduction to her writing, I followed it up with True Confessions of a Heartless Girl and, the more recent, Mistik Lake. In both, Brooks captures the life, challenges and occasional angst of teenaged girls. Since Mistik Lake is the most recent (and my favourite of the two), I'll briefly focus on that, but be sure to check out this fabulous writer's books soon, especially if you know some teenaged girls ready for intelligent, and captivating, stories.

In Mistik Lake, Odella, her two younger sisters, and her father have recently been abandoned by their mother/wife who has left for Iceland. Although a seemingly heartless act, we learn that Sally's life is complex and tortured by her past. As Odella struggles in her adolescence and also tries to fill the void her mother has left in the family, Brooks slowly reveals the complexities of Sally's history. Odella's story is threaded with that of her great-aunt, Gloria, a closeted (until recently) lesbian. Brooks uses diary entries, occasional flashbacks, and a shared narration (alternating between Odella and Gloria) to develop this charming, captivating, heartbreaking, and heartwarming story. This book has been well received and, no doubt, a bit of Googling will reveal many reviews. Here's one from Canadian Materials, which gives a great overview, and another from Canadian Literature.

Here's an interview with Ms. Brooks from Quill and Quire. It's somewhat dated, but interesting nonetheless. And here's a shorter, but more recent interview from School Library Journal. I have one minor quibble about Mistik Lake and that is the cover image. I'm afraid I don't find it at all compelling and, for the life of me, I can't figure out the image behind the "slotted blinds" (?). I think it might be of a car? If you know, please enlighten me!

1 comment:

Sven said...

Good Job! :)