Thursday, May 22, 2008

Review: The Rope Walk

Summary: In The Rope Walk, Carrie Brown crafts a luminous story of a young girl's coming of age during a crucial summer in New England. On her tenth birthday Alice meets two visitors to her quiet town: Theo, the African American grandson of her father's best friend, and Kenneth, an artist who has come home to convalesce. Theo forms an instant bond with Alice that will indelibly change them both. The pair in turn befriend Kenneth, and decide to build a “rope walk” through the woods for him, allowing to make his way through the outdoor world he has always loved. But their good intentions lead to surprising consequences, and Alice soon learns how different the world of children and adults really are. -- Anchor Books

When I was given the opportunity to pick a couple of newly-released books from Anchor Books and Vintage Books, I felt kind of like a kid in a candy store. There were many books on the list that looked interesting, but I just knew I wanted to read THE ROPE WALK by Carrie Brown. I am usually drawn to coming of age stories, especially ones about pre-teen girls. I certainly wasn't disappointed with this novel.

Alice was such a wonderful character and within the first few chapters of this book, I fell in love with this young girl. Ms. Brown really captured the essence of a 10 year old girl; and I felt she did a very good job of making Alice very real to the reader. My heart went out to Alice -- she was just a little girl who had lost her mother when she was very young and she was living in a house full of men. With her older brothers heading off to college, she was very lonely and in need of a friend. Theo, a young African American boy, and Kenneth, an artist who returns home because of an illness, enter her life and they all form an immediate friendship.

To me, this book is really about growing up and losing some of the innocence that we all had as children. The author makes many mentions of 9/11, terrorism, suicide bombings and other tragic events that we face on the evening news each night. She also has Alice facing many situations that are hard for us to deal with and accept even as grown-ups including illness, depression, and death. In addition, Alice learns that the adults that she knows and loves aren't always what they seem to be.

While the book does take a sad and rather unfortunate turn, I still didn't feel depressed after I finished the book. Although the kids had been through so much, they still kept enough of their innocence and hope to show the reader that "all is not lost." I loved that this book was told through the eyes of a young child because it was so refreshing to see a character who was honest, sincere and hopeful. Alice will remain in my mind for some time.

I think this book is beautifully written; and Ms. Brown has created a story with richly developed characters. Her descriptions throughout the book of the Vermont countryside, the houses, and even the furniture are so clear that the reader can picture each of these perfectly. I wouldn't hesitate after reading THE ROPE WALK to read another book by Ms. Brown.

THE ROPE WALK is the perfect book club book! This book covers a lot of issues about growing up and learning about yourself as well as learning about the world. I think the questions in the reading guide are very good and will help generate a great deal of discussion.


joanna said...

this sounds very good - I love coming of age books too!

windycindy said...

Your review makes this book sounds like such a wonderful book to read! I enjoy reading about resiliency in young people after going through tough times! Please enter me in your book drawing. I really appreciate it!