Review: The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer

18668051Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 1st, 2014 by Putnam Juvenile
Source: Penguin Canada

Mama wouldn’t start a new project until she had every piece. Sometimes it took months of gathering. We’d go to yard sales and junk shops and she’d let her hands run along rows of knobs and buttons and screws that had held other people’s lives together in one form or fashion for more years than I’d been alive. She let herself imagine those lives, what kind of bird she might piece together. One time I asked her how she knew what to pick and what to leave behind. She said the right pieces hummed under her hand, like the daisies. I remembered sitting in the tub, night after night, for a long time, humming, so she knew not to leave me behind. Then she went ahead and did it anyway.

The Secret Hum of a Daisy is about, amongst other things, acceptance. Grace’s mother led a nomadic existence, moving from one city to another whenever whim took her and she in turn took Grace with her, never letting her settle in one place long enough to make friends and lasting connections. When they found themselves at Mrs. Green’s house though, Grace put her foot down and said she wanted to stay. Her mother disagreed and they had a falling out which would have been fine they would have made up later. But then her mother went and died and Grace’s world fell apart.

She was moved to live with a grandmother she hadn’t ever met and of whom she had heard the cruellest things about. Her grief spills over and stops her from writing which is the primary way of catharsis for her. Her friendship with Mrs. Green’s daughter is in danger of falling apart as distance determines that lives will change no matter how much the ones living them do not want them to.

I liked this book quite a bit. I thought Grace’s interactions with and her gradually journey towards her grandma were poignant and realistic. The Brannigan family especially the kids, Jo and Stubbie, were wonderful characters. I especially loved Stubbie whose insistence for an entombing party was subtle yet loaded with meaning. The slight hint of romance added a nice layer to this book which took some complex people together and gave them complex lives. Grace’s disillusionment with her mother, that moment when the rose-coloured glasses are taken off and you see a parent for the human being he/she is, was a nice addition to the narrative.

I think that the novel had many wonderful elements to it but it may have tried too hard by introducing the horse narrative to the story. Sure, I like horses and I liked the idea of rebirth but at that point, the story seemed a tad overwritten as though the author spelling everything out instead of letting the narrative breathe on its own. On its own, the horse narrative is effective but when it’s put together with everything else, the other more gorgeous, more subtle, poignant moments lose their effectiveness.

That said, I did enjoy the novel and do recommend it strongly to anyone who wants an introspective novel about grief, forgiveness and the courage to move on.

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