Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Mary DeMuth's Daisy Chain: sweet, compelling and intriguing
In what has been a very hectic past several weeks for me, Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth has been languishing in a "to-read" stack on my nightstand/bookcase. I'm so glad I gave in to it during a rare lull last evening and read the entire book in one sitting.
Daisy Chain has that rare combination that makes for a wonderfully compelling novel: a poignant sweetness, a strong sense of place, characters that are vividly drawn and multi-dimensional, and an intriguing mystery that, alas, doesn't get solved at the end of this book. (I'm guessing we have to wait for book 2 or even 3 in this trilogy before we get to that resolution.)
It's also a coming-of-age story for the main character, 14-year-old Jed. Just as he's feeling the beginning stirrings of first love, the object of his affection--his best friend and tomboy companion, the vibrant and remarkable Daisy-- vanishes completely.
To make matters worse, Jed blames himself. He was the last person to see her after refusing to walk her home one night.
"Your family isn't normal," Daisy once told Jed, and boy, was she right. His preacher father is abusive and cruel; his mother is miserable and depressed. His little sister, Sissy, is smart and sweet, but he has to defend her from bullies who cruelly make fun of her lisp.
(In many ways, Jed and Sissy's relationship reminds me of other literary brother-sister duos, like the one in To Kill a Mockingbird.)
Yet there is so much beauty in this novel, it outshines the depressing and even tragic situations. In the midst of his angst over Daisy's disappearance and the ongoing battles with his father, Jed meets wonderful people who really reflect the love of Christ, and through them he learns about that love's ability to triumph over even the worst circumstances.
Mary DeMuth's writing is clean and spare, but lovely and evocative. She writes about spiritual matters in a way that's genuine and touching, never overly-sentimental or preachy.
I loved this book, and can't wait to read the next one in the Defiance Texas Trilogy.