Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Great Unexpected - a review

Creech, Sharon. 2012. The Great Unexpected.  New York: Harper Collins.

Many things are unexpected in The Great Unexpected, but none more so than the dead boy's body that drops from a tree, nearly landing on Naomi Deane, who notes,

Leaves have fallen on me, and twigs, and a branch during a storm.  Bird slop, of course, everyone gets that.  But a body?  That is not your usual thing dropping out of a tree.

(after some time, the body talked)

And as the body opened his eyes and slowly looked up and looked all around - at the meadow, at the cows in the distance, at the tree out of which he had fallen, and at me, and then he yelled, "Oh no!" and fell back on the ground and his eyes closed and he was dead again.
(Hear it read by Sharon Creech)

Unexpected, indeed! The boy, in fact, is Finn, a mysterious, young, flirtatious boy about 12-years-old, with whom Naomi and her best friend, Lizzie, are smitten. 

Half of the story takes place in the small indeterminate town of Blackbird Tree, where many "unfortunate souls," reside - including Naomi and Lizzie - both orphans, "Witch Wiggins," "Crazy Cora," Mr. Canner, and the huge and unruly clan of Dimmenses.  Naomi narrates the story with a generous helping of Sharon Creech's delightfully descriptive prose, as in this description of the newcomer, "the Dingle-Dangle Man,"

His head jerked slightly to the left and then to the right, like a bird on a worm prowl.
Or in this depiction of Witch Wiggins' house,

If you had to guess which house a witch lived in, this would be it.  The house tilted to one side, as if eavesdropping on its neighbor.
The other half of the story takes places in Rook's Orchard, Ireland.  The connection between the two towns is also unexpected, and early in the book, unexplained.  The Rook's Orchard chapter names are prefaced with "Across the Ocean," and contain a third person narrative of the activities of a certain Sybil Kavanaugh, her constant companion, Miss Pilpenny, and Mr. Dingle (known stateside as "the Dingle-Dangle Man").

The Great Unexpected is a story of possibility, of friendship, of first loves, and the nature of true love.  Many things are unexpected, and if we greet them with open arms, and there is a hint of magic in the air, who knows what may happen.

Delightful and quirky and highly recommended.
The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech

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