(Note: I wrote this post on March 1st—but, not yet being used to WordPress, failed to publish it to the blog correctly. Lo siento!)
Yesterday I finished reading the novel Wrecker by Summer Wood.
First, you have to envy a woman with such a great name. Second, you can fairly easily predict that she has hippy roots.
I’m in the depths of writing now, and I find it difficult to find novels with a sufficiently enchanting voice to snare my restless spirit. This one did from the first page.
I’ve converted to reading books on my iPad, but I’m going to buy at least one print copy of this novel to pass around to friends. Yes: it’s that good. I want to shout about it ? once I come out from under its spell, which lingers.
The subject of the story is the rearing of a motherless boy?three years old at the opening of the novel and eighteen at the end?by what I would call an “intentional” (i.e. communal) community in the far reaches of northern California. It’s a dramatic, heart-rending and?yes, it’s fair to say?ultimately a happy story, although the word happy seems woefully inadequate to describe its fullness of heart.
The back-to-the-land setting is authentic, which I found refreshing. The author clearly loves each and every one of her characters. They are flawed; they are profoundly heroic. Wrecker, the boy at the core, is … well, he’s quite “a package.” As he matures, the word beautiful is often used to describe him. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that captures a male spirit—both its tenderness and strength—so well: in a boy, in a teen, in a man.
What I do not see mentioned in the reviews (so far)—and it’s something I found exceptional in this novel—is the voice, that elusive intelligence that informs literary fiction. As a writer, I’d call it jaw-dropping prose. Sorry, that’s not very elegant: but there it is. Pace, details, dialogue: all spare, all rich and perfectly enchanting.
It’s hard to single out examples, but I’ll slip in a few sentences from the first page:
Len stood waiting for his life to change.
Okay, you have to admit that’s a wonderful line.
He was a skinny man with a long face that showed its creases despite the stubble on his chin and cheeks …
I can picture this man?can’t you?
…and he kept moving his hands from the brim of his cap to the pockets of his jeans as thought he couldn’t be held responsible for what they might do if left unsupervised.
A great image, original and telling.
In an interview, Summer Wood said that it took her close to a decade “of intermittent work, and many many drafts, and reams of discarded pages to get this novel finished.” It shows in the craft.
Her mother charmingly weighs in here, and here’s the trailer.
If you read this novel—and I hope you do—let me know what you think.
(Afternote: Although I bought the e-book edition, I have just ordered it in hardcover as well so that I can share it with my friends.)
HI Sandra, A very interesting review, but at the moment I have begun rereading your last book published, Mistress of the Sun. I am reading it in a different light than when I had waited so impatiently for its release the first time round. I am savoring it now, studying it, as a craftswoman, not an impatient reader to learn the plot. I am at chapter 4 right now, and I am enjoying your writing style immensely. It seems to me that what you just said about the book you reviewed could be said about yours. You gave it a very thoughtful study before finally publishing it, and it shows. I especially enjoyed learning how to skin a rabbit, liked the details of Petite trying to roast the bone. Finally, I have reached where she has made the horse her own. Just to let you know. I will write a review when finished, but this time I am savoring it slowly, so it will be a few days.
Janet, that is extremely kind of you. Thank you!