Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review - "Spirit's Key"

There is an episode of the British science fiction show (and now worldwide phenomenon) “Doctor Who”, in which the character of the Doctor attempts to explain his current whereabouts by describing the universe as a bubble, with a tiny bubble sticking to the outside.  While the Doctor dismisses his  metaphor before he has even finished it, I feel this appropriately encapsulates the world of Edith Cohn’s Spirit’s Key.  It’s our world, but not quite.  Our world as it could be, under certain circumstances.  If I were being technical, I would call this style magical realism, but for the moment, I’m going to stick with the Doctor’s bubble-on-bubble universe.

Spirit Holden and her father live on Bald Island, a small, close-knit and superstitious community.  Spirit’s father has a gift, and can see into the future of someone whose key he is holding, but lately his visions have been shaky.  Spirit believes this will pass, but in fact, the gift of sight is in the process of transferring from her father to herself.  One day, while clutching his discarded dog tag, Spirit sees the ghost of her beloved “baldie” (a local, wild dog), Sky.  With Sky’s help, and the help of a few new friends, Spirit realizes her gift and fights to save the island from prejudice and misconception and take her place among the “greats” of her family.

I had a hard time getting into Spirit’s Key at first, I will admit.  I wasn’t sure of the world Spirit was inhabiting, and wasn’t sure of the rules.  But I kept with it, because Spirit herself was an interesting character, and in time the workings of Spirit’s universe became clear, and then seemingly all at once, the entire book fell into place.   The story rests on Spirit’s shoulders, but she is more than up to the task.  Spirit is resourceful and brave, not afraid to admit when she needs help, and has remarkable strength in her convictions.  Spirit’s Key is a call for preservation and for the need to reach out in kindness to all living things, be they strangers, strange or simply misunderstood.

Spirit’s Key by Edith Cohn
2014, Farrar Straus Giroux
Preview copy provided by publisher for review
On bookshelves September 9th

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