Chasing Orion. Kathryn Lasky. 2010. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Silver glinting behind leafy trees--that is the first thing I noticed as I stood in the backyard of our new house that summer day.
Premise/plot: Chasing Orion is a coming of age story set in 1952/1953. Our heroine, Georgie, loves building small world dioramas. Her latest will tell the myth of Orion. A previous diorama was inspired by Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles. (Bradbury's short story collection was released in 1950). But when she's not hard at work building and creating, she spends a lot of time cooped up because her parents--and rightly so--are concerned about the polio epidemic. There is no vaccine, and polio can be quite dangerous and deadly. Something Georgie realizes even more once she meets her neighbor, Phyllis, who is living--or should that be "living" in an iron lung next door. Georgie certainly doesn't want to end up in an iron lung! But she does miss swimming and going to the movies.
As Georgie becomes closer to Phyllis--so does her brother, Emmett. But is this a good thing or a bad thing? What does Phyllis want from her new friends?
My thoughts: I really did not like this one. It's a personal thing, I think. It was an uncomfortable read that I think rightly reflects the uncomfortable-ness of the times. One of the big questions asked throughout the book is this: Is Phyllis better off "living" in an iron lung? Or would it have been better for her parents to let her die? Are polio victims better off dead than living if they have to live in an iron lung? Or perhaps a rocking bed? At what point does life not become worth living anymore? Most coming-of-age novels aren't really exploring the idea of euthanasia or mercy killing. So can you see why it was a bit uncomfortable? I'm not saying the question isn't a valid one--I'm just not sure it's one I would have EVER wanted to read about in middle school.
Another question it seemed to come back to again and again was belief in God. Georgie decides at one point that if God actually existed there wouldn't be polio. Phyllis would not be stuck in an iron lung if God was real. Deep stuff--I'm not saying it's not valid for Georgie to question what she's been taught as she comes face to face with suffering. But. Again it made for an uncomfortable read.
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