Saturday, June 5, 2010
COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles
I just finished reading Deborah Wiles’ new book, COUNTDOWN. Brilliant! Fantastic! Talk about heart on the page. Deborah puts herself into every word. Every moment sings. I was totally rapt in the story, but as I was reading I felt the weight of this book. As Jane Resh Thomas would say—it has gravitas. Every once in a while you read something that is larger than the story itself. This book is that. The book spans a few days during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. It encompasses an era, while still being a story about an eleven-year old girl trying to understand her family, friends and her place in the world. It’s also a book of the 60’s. There are insertions of photographs, speeches, songs, and biographies of some of the leaders at that time—politicians, activists, musicians. These are cleverly placed to heighten the personal story of the narrator, while giving a sense of the issues of the world around the narrator. They help make the book so much more than a story.
The afterward, about Deborah’s childhood and how she memorialized some of the people in her life by using their names, made me weepy. Deborah has called this book a gift to write, and it is certainly a gift to read. I am fortunate to know Deborah, which makes the book all the more joyous to recommend so favorably. I know how hard she works to make her writing meaningful. We have a lot to learn from her. Hats off to you, Deborah!!!
Those of you coming to the July residency at Hamline will have the opportunity to hear Deborah Wiles as our guest speaker. I highly suggest that you read COUNTDOWN, and you will see what I mean about heart on the page.