Monday, December 12, 2005

Flush

In this novel Carl Hiaasen once again has readers in Florida in the Keys. (He also wrote Hoot.) As the novel opens, Noah is visiting his dad in jail on Father’s Day. Dad is there because he sunk a boat, a seventy-three footer. Now before you jump to any conclusions about the kind of character Dad is, read on. Noah’s dad thinks that Dusty Muleman, the owner of the Coral Queen, a gambling boat, is flushing raw sewage into the harbor. The problem is that he cannot prove the allegation.

The novel is about the adventures and risks Noah and his helpers go through to try to prove that Dad is right about Dusty Muleman. He is helped by Abbey, his sister, who thinks Dad is kind of crazy anyway. Two others are Lice Peeking (great name), a lazy drunk, and Lice’s girlfriend, Shelly, who is a bartender on the Coral Queen. There is also a strange “pirate” who seems to be there to rescue Noah when he is in trouble.

This book is an environmental story written in the style of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.


Monday, December 05, 2005

The Witch's Boy

“Once upon a time, in a faraway country, there was a woman who lived by herself in the middle of a great forest. …One spring morning the woman set off to collect some plants she needed… She passed the old oak tree, lightning killed and half hollow, where people were accustomed to leave things for her, and there she heard and odd little cry.”

This isn’t an ordinary fairy tale, it is a fracturing of several tales and has a plot much more intricate than a simple fairy tale. The “witch” is left with the ugliest baby ever and the rest of the novel deals with her “mothering” of this child. According to legend, witches are not supposed to be able to be mothers; they are supposed to eat babies, not feed them. She names the baby Lump. The witch, a she-bear demon named Ysul, and a familiar cat named Falance form a family to care for the boy.

When the group has to move on, they become mountebanks (modern definition is a seller of quack medicine). As they move about, they meet characters from other fairy tales like Pinocchio and Hansel and Gretel. Lump discovers that he too has magical powers and has difficulty dealing with them.

Much like any mother, the witch makes a tremendous sacrifice for this ugly child. Lump treats her terribly. This story deals with relationships, love, and the pain of being rejected by others. Michael Gruber, the author, has developed the novel into more than a retelling of classic fairy tales, but familiarity of those tales makes the book intriguing.