Friday, April 13, 2012

The Canning Season by Polly Horvath

One night out of the blue, Ratchet Clark’s ill-natured mother tells her that Ratchet will be leaving their Pensacola apartment momentarily to take the train up north. There she will spend the summer with her aged relatives Penpen and Tilly, inseparable twins who couldn’t look more different from each other. Staying at their secluded house, Ratchet is treated to a passel of strange family history and local lore, along with heaps of generosity and care that she has never experienced before. Also, Penpen has recently espoused a new philosophy – whatever shows up on your doorstep you have to let in.

Through thick wilderness, down forgotten, bear-ridden roads, come a variety of characters, drawn to Penpen and Tilly’s open door. It is with vast reservations that the cautious Tilly allows these unwelcome guests in. But it turns out that unwelcome guests may bring the greatest gifts. By turns dark and humorous, Polly Horvath offers adolescent readers enough quirky characters and outrageous situations to leave them reeling!

My take: 3 looks
What an odd little book! I say "little" because it's a whopping 196 pages. I should have been able to read it in a day, but found myself distracted and not altogether committed to Canning. That is the reason for 3 looks as opposed to more.

It was cleverly written, had a nice flow, diverse characters, and an interesting injection of oddities. However, it fell flat for me. I liked the older twins very much, but felt that they were a little one dimensional. Other than the gruesome death of their mother, there was really no other background info. They were home schooled, but by whom? One was married, but were there any other suitors? I would like to see a prequel on just PenPen and Tilly.

The girls dropped at their door were two sides of the spectrum. Ratchet was very introverted and Harper was very bold. Perhaps it was the intention of the author for these two to be a dichotomy, but that was not altogether clear to me. However, I did like them and felt their pain each time they were dropped on the wayside by their mothers (or mother-figure, in the case of Harper).

Maddy and Henriette were strange, completely self-centered characters. Maddy's treatment of Harper and Henriette's treatment of Ratchet paralleled one another. The tales of childhoods, families, bears and berries completed this fantastical tale. Written for young adults, this is an interesting book worth reading.

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