Saturday, May 05, 2007

Letters from Rapunzel

Holmes, Sara Lewis. 2007. Letters from Rapunzel.
Note: Winner of the Ursula Nordstrom First Fiction Contest

First Impressions: The cover of the book is, in my opinion, somewhat deceptive. With the long-haired Rapunzel gazing out the tower window, it could be just another fractured or retold fairy tale. It could be. But it isn't. Whether that is good news or bad news depends on the expectations of readers. Although I must say that while Rapunzel and her tower feature predominantly on the cover, there are rows of houses--modern-day houses--on the cover as well. So there are some clues that it is contemporary. The book is described thusly, "an enchanting debut novel [that] is a breath of fresh air. Told through letters, with a liberal sprinkling of fairy dust, Rapunzel's quest for a happy ending gives every reader something to believe in."

When "Rapunzel" finds a scrap of a letter in her father's chair addressed to "Box # 5667", she begins an unusual correspondence with one of her father's inspirational muses. Her father, a poet, has been hospitalized with clinical depression. Rapunzel, however, is too young to really understand that diagnosis. All she knows is that her father is under an evil spell. She hopes by writing her father's friend--his poetic guide--that she will somehow break the spell. That she will be rescued from her tower--the horribly yucky after-school Homework Club. And that her father will be rescued from his tower--the hospital. (Or clinic, or institution--I can't remember if the book was too specific in saying where the father was being kept).

Who is Box #5667? A mystery that won't be solved until the final chapters. I certainly won't tell--or even hint. But the correspondence isn't so much about "Box #5667" as it is about a young girl's inner thought life. Her joys. Her concerns. Her worries. She can be funny. She can be entertaining. But she can also be quite serious. She wants to do anything and everything she can to help her father. But there is nothing she can do. School and the homework club are just two of her troubles. Homework--so isn't fun. Teachers--so don't understand her sense of humor. Classmates--don't understand where she's coming from.

Letters from Rapunzel is an enjoyable read. The characters are well-written, and the story is heartfelt.

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