A Beautiful Place. A Ridiculous Plot. – 3 Stars
Part of me feels that I may be a tad generous with a three star review. I had some issues with this book but on the other hand, there were elements that I found quite enjoyable and even enchanting. This novel holds the distinction as one of a few books that I both liked and disliked.
Ruby and her mother Yasmin, fly from England to Alaska to meet up with their father/husband who is in a remote village filming a documentary. Upon arrival, Yasmin learns that there has been a massive fire at the village and all persons are believed dead. Not believing this to be true, Yasmin takes her daughter on a harrowing journey across the Alaskan ice roads in search of the truth. What follows is a series of terrifying experiences and a journey that allows Yasmin to understand the silent world of her deaf daughter.
There was much I didn’t like. My summary of the plot does little to describe the absurdity of what occurred. In this story we have the highly intelligent Yasmin. Well, we assume that she is supposed to be intelligent. She is an astrophysicist after all. Within the first few pages, Yasmin is informed that her husband is believed to be dead. All bodies were accounted for at the village. She refuses to believe this. She is angry at her husband and they haven’t been speaking. She is unsure whether they will remain together. What does she do? Take her preteen, deaf child across the Alaskan interior during the dead of winter. Sure, -50 degree is nothing. Yasmin put the Ruby into danger without cause so many times she should have had this child apprehended by Alaskan Children’s Services. Unfortunately, Yasmin’s stupidity and confusing behavior increase as the story progresses. She goes from stupidity to committing felonies. Very few of her actions show the least bit of common sense.
Generally, I don’t mind plotting issues when the book is meant to be a character novel. The author did a decent job of developing her characters but the actions of Yasmin were erratic and seemed to be without logic. The plot progressed with the intent to get to a final destination and never flowed organically from the nature of the characters.
The novel was further confused by the perspective changes. Multiple perspectives of the same events are popular at the moment. This novel used this device with abandon. There were many changes within the same chapter and no indication that the perspective was changing. It became tiresome trying to determine what perspective I was viewing.
Given the above, the book sounds terrible. While it had serious problems, there were some magical elements in the book. Without a doubt, the best part of the book was the Alaskan Interior. The author has an amazing sense of place and described the barren, frigid terrain with great skill. While the character’s actions were unbelievable, I felt as if I was on an Alaskan ice road. I found the setting to be quite enchanting and I am interested in finding more books with similar settings. Issues aside, I think this makes the book worth reading.
Beyond the setting, the character of Ruby was well developed. Seeing the world through the eyes of a deaf character was a new experience for me. I enjoyed how she would conceptualize words as colors, shapes and ideas. The contrast between the barren interior and altered world of Ruby was interesting. There were wonderful parallels between the need to adapt to a foreign environment and Ruby’s ability to adapt in a world that does not understand her.
You may love it or you may hate it and there is a good chance you will both love it and hate it. The novel is deeply flawed but there is much worthy content. If you are on the fence and enjoy wonderful settings, I would suggest you give it a try.
It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested. I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading.
Scale 1 – Lowest 5 – Highest
Sex – 1.5
There is a character who is slimy and leering at Yasmin. The discomfort is throughout the story. There is allusion to a possible affair having occurred.
F-Word – 16 instances Mild Profanity – Approx. 3 Religious Exclamations – 4
Violence – 2
There is mystery surrounding multiple dead bodies. There is a series of photographs sent to character that display dead and, at times, mutilated animals. There are several gunshots from unknown persons. One person is shot in stomach but it is not graphic.