Thursday, December 13, 2007

Diamonds in the Shadow

Cooney, Caroline B. 2007. Diamonds in the Shadow.

What can I say about Diamonds in the Shadow? Really? So much reading is beginning to get to me. I love it, it's true, but I feel like I'm starting to use the same adjectives over and over and over again. How many ways are there to say good? to say powerful? to say compelling? to say interesting or fascinating? How many ways to say I couldn't put it down?

Secrets. Lies. Shame. Guilt. Fear. Suspicion. Regret. Anger. Distrust. Danger. Murder.

Diamonds in the Shadow is the story of the Finch family. A dad, a mom, a brother, and a sister. The narrative is told mainly through the eyes of these two siblings. Although not exclusively through their eyes. The Finch family is taking in a refugee family from Africa. Their church is sponsoring this family.

In Africa, five people got on a plane. In America, twelve people attended a committee meeting at the Finches' house.

Jared is a typical semi-rebellious boy. He's so not interested in African refugees. He's hostile to the idea that some African refugee is going to be sharing his room, using his things, getting in his way, going to his school, etc. Mopsy, the girl, (I believe it is a nick name) is ecstatic about taking in the family. She hopes and she prays that the refugee family will have a girl. She thinks it would be awful if she didn't get the chance to share her room, share her life, make a new best friend.

The novel is all about relationships. Exploring relationships. Exploring ethics. The church committee did say that there are no "good guys" in refugee camps. That most people fleeing were not strictly innocent. Everything about war--about civil war--about terrorists and warfare--is complicated. The refugees are supposed to be screened, monitored, checked, but even so...

One of the things I loved about this novel was the interaction between the two families. During the course of a month or possibly two months, everyone is different, every life has been affected. The family dynamics have been restructured, redefined. Jared began out with very little understanding, very little compassion. He saw the world in terms of black and white and right and wrong. When I say black and white I'm not speaking racially or culturally. But rather I'm speaking of morally, ethically. He thought things were always clearly one way or the other. Nothing fuzzy, nothing iffy, nothing gray, nothing cloudy.

I think this one would be a great novel to read and discuss as part of a group--whether a book club, a class, or a family. It was both thought-provoking and suspenseful. It had action, but it had depth and substance as well. The characters were well-developed for the most part. (With Mr. Finch being the least developed, the least "present" to the situation, to the action.) I do recommend this one.

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