Saturday, 14 July 2012

A Corner of the Universe


Hattie Owen enjoys peaceful Millerton summertimes with "houses nodding in the heavy air," being in charge of Miss Hagerty's breakfast tray at her parents' boardinghouse, and drinking lemonade on the porch after supper. Yet this year, it's different -- Hattie's uncle Adam is coming home. Returning from a Chicago school that's just closed and whose existence is kept quiet by adult family members, Adam is a 21-year-old man with a child's mind, having a knack for talking quickly, a savant-like ability for remembering weekdays, and a passion for I Love Lucy. Hattie and Adam wind up spending precious time together -- including a visit to the recently arrived carnival with Hattie's new friend, Leila -- which makes her feel soulfully connected to her uncle, especially when he declares that she's "one of the people who can lift the corners of our universe." But when Hattie takes Adam on the ferris wheel one night, it sets off dramatic events that lead Hattie's family to strengthen its bonds and changes her life's outlook forever.

       A novel with a flavor similar to Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie or Kimberly Willis Holt's When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, this absorbing look at a shake-up of one family's small-town normalcy will bring you to tears but leave you feeling ultimately triumphant. Martin paints her characters masterfully, letting Uncle Adam's unsure energy carry an unpredictable foreboding beneath the story while Hattie builds a gradual rebelliousness against the denial and unspoken truths that surround her. A powerful work that presses all the right emotional buttons and touches on all-too-human themes, A Corner of the Universe is one book that should not be missed.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Who Recommended it To Me: My friends
Who I Would Recommend it To: Anyone! Ages 10 up

This book was not a long book, nor a challenging one, but it is one of my favourite books that I have ever read.  I have read some of Ann M. Martin's other books, such as my Babysitters Club obsession at age 8, so I wasn't expecting this one to be as good as my friends had all said.  I anticipated a great book--my friends have awesome taste!--but I wasn't thinking that it would be this good.
         Enter Hattie Owen.  I could relate in so many ways to Hattie.  She was a little younger than I am, 11 turning 12, instead of 12 turning 13 (like me).  We were so alike, though--we both love to read, we're both quiet and keep to ourselves when we don't know people very well, and a lot of other things. She was a great narrator and protagonist and I loved everything about her.  I liked how Adam let her come out of her "corner of the universe" and she helped him come out of his (sort of).
        Adam's mental problem is nameless, but we get a pretty good idea of what he struggles with throughout the book.  A popular theme these days' in children's or young adult's literature seems to be parents or loved ones with mental disabilities.  I think a lot of people make assumptions about mentally ill people, like they are crazy or messed up or are out to kill you, but they haven't taken the time to realize that it's not true.  I myself have always had a fear of "crazy" people, but reading so many books with this premise was good for me to read about.
       In the end, the inevitable happened of course, I think I kept resisting it and shooing it away in my mind throughout the entire book.  You know, like when you know something awful is going to happen at the end of the book but you're in denial so you find yourself surprised when it does happen, even though you were sort of expecting it in the back of your mind? That was what I was feeling at the end of the book.  I felt terrible for Hattie because she felt as though it were her fault but it was actually inevitable and she couldn't do a thing about it.

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