Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Scent of Rain and Lightning

Book Review

The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard.

I was prepared not to like this, once I realized that I had started to read it once before.

Some time ago, I borrowed a NOOK from the library. It was preloaded with many books, and I started to browse through them.

I started reading one book and then my son plopped down next to me on the sofa to look over my shoulder.

I panicked!

I was reading the beginning of this book. And the beginning of this book is most decidedly not appropriate for a nine-year-old boy.

Given the situation, I ended up reading The Book Thief on the NOOK instead.

At that time, I had hardly paid much attention to the title of the book I had so hastily navigated away from on the NOOK. But I when started reading this time, I recognized the beginning almost immediately.

And maybe I was predisposed to not like this book.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning

This is a story about a ranching family in Rose, Kansas, and how things can go desperately and devastatingly wrong when prejudices are not checked.

We are introduced to our protagonist, Jody, in her bedroom.

That's my first problem with this book.

Jody was raised by and has grown up amongst her extended family, because her father was killed and her mother disappeared when she was three years old.

That's about as much as we learn before we are taken back in time to when the tragedy started.

The family hires troubled kids to work on their farm, with the intent to reform them. This seems to work on most, but not for Billy. Billy is trouble. When the oldest son of the family is killed, Billy is instantly and uniformly presumed guilty.

The plot lines of the story are generally good, but the sequence of them is jumbled. We are introduced to Jody as an adult, but we don't hang around there long enough to get to know her. We are yanked back to when she is young and we are presented with her family members. This is where the focus is lacking.

I much prefer having a focused point of view. Give me a character to follow. Let me learn about him or her. Give me a chance to get to know him or her. Not here. Here we are told about the family. We are told about the other characters and how they behave. Here we are given lots of narrative of how things are with the family.

I would have loved to see the story start with the young Jody and family situation. I would have loved to have dialogue between characters, that would have shown me who they are, instead of being told. I would have loved to watch the situation develop through the actions of the characters, instead of being told of things that happened.

I would love to rewrite this story.

When we finally are given the real story behind the events, it feels rushed and too convenient. Suddenly, we know what happened and all the truly bad apples suddenly and magically disappear, so that all the good people go back to living their lives.

That's just a wee bit too convenient for me. Just a bit too perfect of a happy ending for an unhappy set of events.

The writing style was good and the plot was good. If it had just been written a bit differently and not tidied up so cleanly at the end....

Ah well, I'm here doing the reading, not the writing. But if I had....

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