Monday, May 24, 2010

Nature Calls: My Abandonment

I am very picky about what I read. Sure, there are a lot of books with pretty covers calling out to me like sirens but I've been burned so many times (copies of half-read books with pretty covers stacking, spilling out our bookshelves), I don't go for that as much as I used to nowadays. Anonymous library copies will do. Having just abandoned Faulkner's impenetrable Sound and the Fury, I needed something to read. I do browse at the bookstores. It's a good pastime for me. And all the good books I've read over the years, it's usually happenstances: We were in Soho area on Friday night near McNally Jackson, a medium size, independent bookstore that has been a cultural island in the sea of expensive shops and tourists. I wasn't really looking for books, just wandering about, absorbing the balmy Spring weather, on the way to the train station.

Then I see this in there:
Intrigued by its cover, I flipped it over and read the description:

A THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL AND HER FATHER LIVING IN FOREST PARK, an enormous nature preserve in Portland, Oregon. They inhabit an elaborate cave shelter, wash in nearby creek, store perishables at the water's edge, use a makeshift septic system, tend a garden, even keep a library of sorts. Once a week they go to the city to buy groceries and otherwise merge with the civilized world. But one small mistake allows a backcountry jogger to discover them, which derails their entire existence, ultimately provoking a deeper flight.
Inspired by a rue story and told through the startlingly sincere voice of its young narrator, Caroline, My Abandonment is a spellbinding journey into life at the margins and a stirring tale of survival and hope.

I'm sure it's many urbanites' fantasy (including mine) to live self-sufficiently in nature, away from civilization. And I know the city of Portland and the Pacific Northwest pretty well. The book starts out and fulfills that fairytale of ours faithfully. Then it gets darker- sort of McCarthy's The Road with a resourceful girl instead of a helpless boy. I didn't expect that sudden change of mood. Good thing is the author Rock doesn't play the helpless child card. It's about a girl finding herself through abandoning normal life.

I read the book in two days. It happened to me only once or twice, and I'm a very slow reader. I recommend the book to any good friend of mine. It will delight your senses and then disturb you. But don't despair, read on and the beautiful ending will reward you.

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