Sunday, June 06, 2010
Keeper. Kathi Appelt. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 399 pages.
Keeper leaned over the edge of the boat. In the darkness of the night, she glared at the black surface of the water.
What makes a family a family? Keeper, our heroine, has a mother who is not her mother, a father who is not her father, and a grandfather who is not her grandfather. And yet, these three along with an assortment of pets--two dogs, a one-eyed cat, and a bird (a seagull)--are a family--no denying it.
For most of her life, Keeper has been raised by Signe, a young woman 'saved' by Keeper's mother Meggie Marie. And for most of her life, Keeper has held on to the belief that her mother is a mermaid. That she left her behind to return to the sea. Signe--for better or worse--lets Keeper hold on to her fantasies, her stories. But Keeper's rich imagination may just get her into a bit of trouble. It all starts with ten stupid crabs.
The day was supposed to be perfect. All the people in Keeper's life were counting on the day to be special. Waiting for the blue moon to rise. Signe was planning a special dinner--crab gumbo. And they were to have a guest--a special guest--that night. Dogie. The man Keeper loves like a father. Dogie's plans include singing a special two-word song to Signe. (Can you guess what those two words are?) And Mr. Beauchamp their elderly neighbor had hopes for that night as well. He's been waiting and waiting and waiting for or the right night, the perfect night. He's got wishes and dreams of his own.
How did ten stupid crabs spoil it all? And did they have a little help? Keeper, though she may believe in mermaids, hasn't ever heard crabs crying for help before. And if the truth is told, Keeper has eaten plenty of crab dishes before. But on this day the call is undeniable. Keeper is convinced that these crabs are speaking to her, calling for help, begging for freedom. Keeper does know that setting the crabs free will disappoint Signe and Dogie (he's the one who caught the crabs), but she is listening to her heart. And so when the opportunity presents itself, she frees the crabs. And that is just the start of a very bad day.
By the time the sun has set, Keeper is convinced that she's hurt everyone in her life--everyone in her family. She wants to set things right. She wants to make amends. But how? Maybe now would be a good time to find her mermaid mother? Maybe now would be the time to make a few wishes? So begins Keeper's plans...
In a way, Keeper is the story of one day gone wrong. But it is more than that. Readers get snippets of backstories throughout the novel. Stories about Keeper, Dogie, Signe, B.D. and Too (the 2 dogs), Captain (the bird), Sinbad (the cat), Henri Beauchamp and his lost love, Jack. Though Keeper is our heroine--though we see things mainly through her eyes--the others get their say too.
The Keeper is a story about love and loss. A story about wishes.
I loved The Underneath. I really loved it. I didn't love Keeper as much as The Underneath. But that doesn't mean I didn't appreciate it. Appelt has proven that she is a good storyteller.
Other reviews: Abby the Librarian, Fuse #8, and The Reading Zone.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews