victor ladato’s mathilda savitch is atop my current stack of books.

if you’d like a professional, or at least well-thought-out critical review, you could search online.  I’m just going to tell you what my experience of reading it was: not a lot of fancy words or phrases, no references to other authors or works.  just my reactions.

mathilda savitch is the 13-ish narrator of this book who starts off with this opening line: I want to be awful.  not only did she hook me right there, she kept me with her through the entire 292 pages of the book.  I might have slipped away for a paragraph or two here and there, and I at times wanted to shake her, but I cared enough–and was intrigued enough–to stay with her through the end.

mathilda’s sixteen-year-old sister died the year before, and their parents are in the throes of grief, the father seeming to handle it better than the mother.  there is some small mystery–to mathilda–about her sister’s activities before her death, and mathilda’s pain-driven mischievous behavior results from some combination of denial, bewilderment, and a sense of abandonment.  in the not-too-subtle background is a message of fear resulting from terrorist-related activities, both the 2001 events and a “current” bombing somewhere in the states.

I could have done without the terrorist piece.  it felt artificial and perhaps even overdone to me:  I would have enjoyed the story more without what felt like a “sensational” drawing in of the terrorism theme.  it may be realistic to have this young girl worried about bombs and airplane attacks, however, it just felt like the message of an overly-beaten drum.

this is victor lodato’s first novel:  he’s a playwright and poet with a quite a few awards, fellowships, and recognitions for his work.  his creation and portrayal of the internal world of a middle-school-age female is impressive, and beautiful.  mathilda may just stick around with me for a while: always an indication of a powerful book.

I will eagerly pick up mr. lodato’s next novel . . .  and that should tell you something.

also in the reading stack:

escalante:  the best kind of nothing (brooke williams)  I’m working my way through this, more later

on the loose, a classic I’d never heard of until I read about it in the afore-mentioned book, also more later

the spectator bird, wallace stegner: I’ve committed to working my way through his books for the pure pleasure of his beautiful writing style

desert solitaire, edward abbey.  there’s really no excuse for my not having read this yet.

more later!