Monday, May 22, 2006

Pieces of Georgia by Jen Bryant

A rainy holiday Monday, but not a bad thing as I don't have to water all those new transplants I put in a few days ago and I spent the day drinking tea and reading an incredibly poignant wonderful new book called Pieces of Georgia by Jen Bryan. As my last post was about covers, I’d give this one an A+, but here it is so you can judge for yourself.

Interestingly, the text is a free verse poem; along the same vein of another book I reviewed recently, The Crazy Man by Pamela Porter. It seems to me that the poetic structure of this story, like in the case of Porter’s novel is not essential, although not a bad thing. I recall Porter saying at a talk that she felt the structure made it easier for non-readers, and that may well be true. Both novels are very accessible, and easy to pick up. Another thing they share is that they are not so easy to put down.

Georgia is an unpopular tongue-tied ‘At Risk’ almost thirteen year old. Her mother has died and her father works long hours. She is often found in the school nurse’s room recovering from a stomach ache. Mrs. Yocum, her school councilor gives her a red leather diary and suggests that Georgia “…write down what you might tell, or what you might ask your mother, if she were here.” As Georgia fills the pages of her diary, she worries that the similarities between she and her mother will only make her father sadder. Until one day, a gift comes to her anonymously in the mail. It is a membership to the Brandywine River Museum which house three generations of Wyeth artists. Soon, Georgia’s artistic side is seeping out, and she knows that even if her father forbids her, she couldn’t stop going to the museum. Fortunately she has an art teacher who nurtures her talents, slipping her supplies, and encouraging her to enter the district’s art competition which she does without her father’s knowledge.

Pieces of Georgia is far from a one dimensional. The small humiliations of poverty, and the pettiness of popularity are the backdrop to Georgia’s world. Fortunately, she has an artist’s natural tendency toward careful observation, and her insights into her own physical and emotional frailties extend to those of her father and others around her. When her one friend, Tiffany falls into the drug trap, it is Georgia, who notices and who worries for her. Still, she is in the dark about who has sent her the gift that firmly plants her feet on the road to a career in art. In fact, the reader will be as surprised as Georgia when she finally discovers the identity of her benefactor.

The real strength of this book though is its thoughtful rather than dramatic portray of love, loss, family, friendship, and mentorship. I guarantee that it will put a lump in your throat and bring tears to your eyes, or in my case, down right bawling.

Reviewed from advanced reader’s galley.

No comments: