Thursday, February 7, 2013

Silhouette of a Sparrow, Molly Beth Griffin

I was born blue. Life ripped me early from my safe place and thrust me into the world. It was all so astonishing that I forgot to breathe. 

Silhouette of a Sparrow was an interesting book for young adults published by Milkweed Editions, a small independent publisher. I received a review copy from them. Set in the 1920s, sixteen year old Garnet wants nothing more than to become a scientist and study birds, but her mother has her life all planned: after high school, she'll marry and be a housewife. Garnet is sent away for the summer to stay with relatives at a lakeside resort, and she finds a chance to bloom. There is an amusement park, and a dance hall, and she becomes very intimate with a beautiful, daring flapper named Isabella. It will become the most important summer of Garnet's life. Will she follow her family's expectations or her passions? "Can she seize the freedom she so admires in birds?"

I loved many, many things about this book. The overall design of the book was beautiful: the covers, the flaps, and the hardcover itself. It was simple and understated, but perfect. I also loved that Garnet's main hobby is cutting out silhouettes of different birds that she sees. I'd never heard of doing that before, and it fit her well. It's both ladylike enough for her mother, and what she loves. Each chapter is named after a different bird, either one that Garnet sees or a person that reminds her of a certain bird. I wish the author would have included a crow though. The silhouettes are included with the chapter title.

The story itself was great too. It was interesting, and very important, the basic follow your family or your dreams line. The flapper era is one that I'm somewhat interested in, though I suppose I'm interested in most historical periods. Silhouette of a Sparrow was more subdued than The Diviners (obviously, they're very different genres), and I liked it better because of that. It used less tacky 1920's lingo; in The Diviners, it was just over-done a bit. You won't find any "pos-i-tute-ly"s or "jake"s or "you bet-ski"s here. The absence of those phrases makes the book seem more realistic, and it makes it more relatable. I could actually imagine Garnet, and I could also imagine being friends with her. Her character wasn't as developed as it could have been, but I still enjoyed the relationship between her and Isabella, though I did think the author's choice of them having a romance was really odd, considering the circumstances.

I suppose I should get past my stereotypes. One doesn't think of Minnesota as an exciting place to stay during the summer. But for Garnet, it ends up being so, and it ends up (probably) being one of the most important parts of her life, where she really finds herself, and makes a choice.

I'm not sure what rating to give this book. I certainly liked it, but did I love it? One might say the book was a bit too subdued; the 1920's are known for jazz and speakeasies, and parties. Not much of that goes on in Silhouette of a Sparrow. The book is kind of mellow, drifting along in a gentle sort of way. If The Diviners is over-dramatized, then Silhouette of a Sparrow is under-dramatized. All I'm saying is more could have been done with this plot. I still really enjoyed the book.

Read Silhouette of a Sparrow:
  • if you like historical fiction
  • if you like books set in Minnesota
  • if you like books about finding yourself
186 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

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