December 15, 2006

Beyond the Veil

This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction.

When her grandmother Bunny dies, Liz Scattergood's life changes in more ways than one. Not only because she has lost someone who truly loved her and saw her, Liz is grieved and afraid because she has also lost her mother, someone who has always loved being someone else's child, but has never truly stepped into her role as a parent. Liz's Mom is so unhappy that she only gets out of bed to reconnect with reality to find her mother. A woman at the funeral encourages her to come to her spiritualist church to contact her mother again, and it throws the household into chaos.

How hard is it to resist hope when hope is offered? Liz's father has the strength to resist -- angrily. Raised in a fundamentalist home, and now an atheist, he resists having his entire household ruled by yet another religion, and eventually finds it too hard to live at home. Liz is interested, but skeptical, then hurt and depressed when her mother grasps so hard at straws that she is taking in what sounds like just gabbling and nonsense. Her mother sees Liz's skepticism, and reacts as if she is rejecting her, angrily pointing out her lack of love for her grandmother. Matters come to a head when the cranky across-the-street neighbor's daughter and grandchildren move in, one of whom is Nathan, a broody sixteen and his little sister, Courtney. Nathan might be good for Liz, in that she has a distraction from her homelife, but unfortunately, Nathan and Courtney's mother is dying of leukemia, and though no one wants to tell Courtney the truth, the stress in that household lets everyone know something terrible is wrong. Liz's mother offers Nathan and his mother a kind of twisted hope in the form of her spiritualist church. But is it really helpful? And is it real hope, and not Blind Faith that someone is out there, still listening, still mothering an immature woman who is too scared to grow up?

In the end, Liz begins to speak the truth that can save her; she can only hope that she is opening her eyes to what is, and what will have to be in time to salvage something of a relationship to her mother, and to her own self-respect. A sad and troubling story with no clear resolution about the questions in the world that have no easy answers.

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