Friday, March 20, 2009

The Chosen One

Williams, Carol Lynch. 2009. The Chosen One. St. Martin's Press. 224 pages. (MAY PUBLICATION)

"If I was going to kill the Prophet," I say, not even keeping my voice low, "I'd do it in Africa."

This one had me at hello, with that first sentence. Even if I wasn't already persuaded by the premise--which I was. (The premise: "Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters. Or at least without questioning them much--if you don't count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her sixty-year old uncle--who already has six wives--Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family.")

Several things caught my eye. Primarily the part about her love of reading despite the fact that all books are her and the others in her commune. For it is this love of reading that sustains her, that gives her hope, that gives her joy, that gives her normalcy. Small though it may seem, it is this act of disobedience, this strange-confidence of approaching the outside world, of speaking even briefly with an outsider, that is a catalyst in her life.

If you love books, you'll relate to Kyra. She names a handful of books throughout. The book shows her discovering these books, these characters. Kyra was out walking outside the boundaries of her community when she first notices the mobile library. Two or three weeks she notices him driving by. The third week, he stops. And that changes everything...for better or worse.

Dust billowed up around us. I could taste the dirt. Crunched sand between my teeth.
He rolled down the window. "You want a library card," he said adjusting the ball cap he wore. It wasn't even a question.
And I nodded, like he'd done to me these past weeks.
"You can take four books out at a time," he said when I inched my way into the truck, cooled by fans and air-conditioning.
I'd never seen so many books. Never. The sight made my eyes water. I mean, tear right up.
"Four?" I said. There was that sand on my tongue, gritting between my back teeth.
I eyed the man. Eyed the books. Stood still, my heart thumping.
"Maybe just one," I said.
"You could start with this," he said and handed me something from a basket near his feet. "A girl just your age turned it in on my last stop. She said she loved it. I loved it myself."
His last stop? Another girl? He'd read this book?
I took the novel from him and glanced at the cover. Bridge to Terabithia.
I was there just a minute and I only took the one. One, I knew, would be easier to hide.
But oh, how my life changed with his stopping. My life changed when I started reading. I was different with these sinful words.
Who was this Katherine Paterson? Who was this Jesse and Leslie? People the writer knew? I could hardly read this book fast enough.
And when I did
when I got to the end
when I got to the end and
Leslie died
and Jesse was left alone without his best friend
I cried so hard that coming in from my hiding place, my tree, the book stashed in the branches, high in the prickles, Mother Victoria said, "Where have you been, Kyra? I needed help making bread." Then she looked at my face and said, her voice all worried, "Honey, what happened?"
I couldn't tell her a thing. Not about Leslie or May Belle or Jesse all alone. I couldn't tell Mother Victoria a thing about drowing or running or painting.
Instead, I threw my arms around her waist and said, my head on her shoulder, crying my eyeballs out, "I love you so much, Mother Victoria."
Then I set out delivering bread to my other mothers and to Sister Allred, who just had a baby, half-crying the whole way. (15-16)
But this book isn't just a book about a girl who loves to's a book about a girl who's in love with a boy. Joshua Jackson. Their love innocent and pure as it may be is forbidden. Kyra--just thirteen--has been ordered by the Prophet and the elders to marry her uncle. Or else. Or else her family will pay the price for her 'sins'. No one in her family--her father or her mothers--wants to see her married to her creepy-old-uncle. But none are really willing to sacrifice that much for her. (I am not going to tell you what that sacrifice would involve because I think it would be too big a spoiler.)

This book is well-written; fascinating; compelling; powerful. I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend this one. I just loved it. Loved Kyra. Loved her story. It's an emotional roller coaster, no doubt, but definitely worth it!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Erika Powell said...

this book looks really good, thanks for the great review!

Anonymous said...

We just talked about this book at my book club during the week because not only is it getting rave reviews but because Carol Lynch Williams is a local author (I've seen her a couple times at various events). She's doing a signing here and I really, really want to read it before then. Thanks for the review, now I'm even more excited!

Stephanie said...

Another book that went straight to my TBR list! Thanks for the heads-up about this, it sounds amazing!

Toni said...

This sounds like a good one Becky. GREAT REVIEW!

Debi said...

Oh Becky, you're killing me, girl! Another must-have!

di said...

Your review has me convinced. I have to have this book.

avisannschild said...

Great review! I just mentioned this book and your review in my Friday Finds post. I'm definitely going to read this one!