I once thought that book reviews might be something fun for my blog. But then, as I explored a little deeper, it occurred to me what a slow reader I am. Seriously, shockingly slow. Not necessarily words-per-minute slow. More like pages-per-week slow. I enjoy reading. I do. But there is not enough time in life to fit it in at any acceptable rate. So book reviews would have to be added to the pile of rejected blog ideas.
Who says they have to be frequent? The joy of a blog, after all, is that you make your own rules and post what you want to post. So as this blog begins to take on a life of its own, reflecting my own life in ever-so-tiny ways, why not include a book review here and there?
A dear friend of mine submitted the beginning pages of her Baba Yaga story for critique not long ago. She is a master storyteller, so it was no surprise that her writing would reflect her flair for the art. As I printed out her pages readying myself for critique mode, I walked by Egg and Spoon, staring up at me from the YA shelf at the local library. The nice cover caught my eye, but what held it were the onion domes on the horizon and the wee little house on chicken legs silhouetted mid-illustration. Only Baba Yaga lived in a house like that. So in the interest of research, I checked Gregory Maguire’s first endeavor supposedly written for young adult eyes.
Egg and Spoon follows two young lives, those of a poor peasant girl, Elena, who very much believes in Baba Yaga and all of old Russian Folklore, and a rich aristocratic girl who knows such things are for children and the simple minded. As their lives tumble together, apart, and together again, they learn of one another and the magic that lives beyond the reach of unimaginative souls throughout Russia. Their personal woes forcibly set aside, Elena and Ekaterina find that there are much greater troubles in their motherland, and that they, whether by providence or dumb luck, have become the unwitting defenders of their world. They may not be ready, they may not be old enough, smart enough, or powerful enough, but the task has nevertheless fallen to them.
Gregory Maguire is a masterful writer, and commands his craft in ways I can only hope to steer my own. He breaks all the rules, flies in the face of propriety, and takes us on a journey into a vivid world somewhere between our own backyard and the most fantastical of places. He weaves the two together so seamlessly that I found myself fact checking once or twice to see if some of his fantasies were actually part of my real home world that I had never before been aware of. The history, geography, and folklore of Russia are melded into one impressive story architecture, as it should be for a country so rich in all three.
Maguire puts us squarely into the contrasting shoes of two very different children, and slowly reveals the good and not-so-perfect parts of each of us through Elena and Ekaterina. By the end, he has not only reconciled their irreconcilable lives, but helped us to reconcile the warring factions within our own skins. Life is hard, no matter where and how we live it, but it is a smidge easier when we can get outside of ourselves (whether forcibly or not!), find compassion for one another, and help eachother along.