December 30, 2005

A giant girl from an immense state: Lucy from Alaska

Another great one, since the Library of Congress files it under Family Problems, Fishing Boats, Coming of Age, and Alaska. I would hate to have that job -- randomize a novel in four categories or less!

I adore this book because my life's goal is to move to Alaska and write novels in the backcountry. Seriously. I also adore this book about Alaska because this woman to our left is the author, and what I've always loved about writing is that any writer can embody any person for a time and tell their story. That rocks. This woman, Sherri L. Smith, rocks too. Hard. And her story rocks hardest of all, being named an ALA Best Book for 2003 and winning something like that in the Netherlands for 2005. Yay!

But enough with the errata. Lucy the Giant stands over six feet tall in her stocking feet and her problems seem sized to match. Start with being on a first-named basis with every liquor store owner and bartender in town. Start with everyone knowing you're Joe Otswego's girl who has to carry her father home every night, limp, stinking drunk, from one of Sitka's seedy little taverns. Start with being called The Giant by the peppy pale petites at school who used to be her friends, when she was more "normal" sized. Start with having her Native mother abandon her for who-knows-where when she was too little to understand why, and having a sodden father who rarely to never speaks to her, but has a wicked and fast right hook for all her pains at keeping the house clean and aired out and staying out of the way and not asking for anything, ever. Lucy's got problems, and they take a turn for the worse when the one little scrap of sunshine she has going for her, that has kept her happy for two weeks straight, is suddenly and unexpectedly snuffed out. She's burned her bridges and she can't go home. Lucy ends up, through a simple misunderstanding, in Kodiak, even further North, in a bar full of strangers, drinking tequila shots, in a desperate gamble to land herself a job on a crabbing boat.

Six foot something she may be, but Lucy's still only just a kid, only fifteen. She makes enemies, fast. She makes mistakes. She sees how narrow the margin runs between life and death, out there in the subzero and bitter cold and ice of the Bering Sea, and it's terrifying. But, if, at fifteen, you'd had the chance to skip the daily details of miserable adolescence, and head straight to adulthood, Do Not Pass Go, wouldn't you have taken it? And Lucy collects more than $200 for sure. But, there's no skipping any of the steps it takes to become an adult. Lucy's world hits the skids once more, but she finally learns the difference between running away and walking away. It's a big lesson for a young girl, but this book will leave you cheering; Lucy's gonna make it.

An awesome first novel, and I wish Ms. Smith the best, as her second novel comes out from Random House in 2006. Something else to look forward to in the New Year!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds good! I'm definitely going to look for it.