Monday, June 7, 2010

Walking Backward by Catherine Austen

Title: Walking Backward
Author: Catherine Austen
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Everybody 8+
Number of Pages: Paperback – 167 pages

“Once your mother dies, you’re either unhappy because your mother died, or you’re happy but you think you shouldn’t be because your mother just died, or you’re happy and not thinking about it until other people look at you like you’re a freak for being happy when your mother just died. Any way you look at it, it’s not happy.”

After his mom dies due to discovering a snake in the car and veering into a tree, twelve-year-old Josh is left with a father who is building a time machine in the basement and a little brother who talks to a toy Power Ranger as if it is his dead mother. With no faith to guide him, Josh makes death his summer research project. He collects facts, interviews suspects, compares religious rituals and feels guilty when he enjoys playing soccer or winning computer games. Isolated by grief in a home where every day is pajama day, Josh waits for life to feel normal, for death to make sense and for his father to start acting like a father. – From back of book

Walking Backward is an extremely sad novel, and while I usually never cry during books, this one caused me to fetch the box of tissues. The author does a fantastic job with developing her characters; the voice of young Josh is dark, doleful, and realistic for a twelve year old boy; his little brother Sammy is every bit as crazy and innocent as a four-year-old can be; his reclusive, slightly apathetic dad is beautifully written. Josh’s voice tells of his family members’ different ways of mourning the loss of a loved one. Sammy is confused and traumatized, seeking comfort in his Power Ranger, which he pretends to be his mother. His dad holes himself up in the basement all day, working on a time machine to bring his wife back. Every page of this short novel contains Josh’s interesting musings about death, loss, and life in general. Direct and to the point, Josh virtually covers all the dark and happy thoughts of a boy recovering from loss.

Overall, this quiet read provokes thoughts about the way to mourn loss, move on, and begin to live life again. This book does not contain much of a plot, but it is driven on by the inner journey of Josh and his family. Despite its lack of action, I recommend this touching novel that will entice tears out of everybody’s eyes.

To get a taste of this book - My favorite quotes:

“Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French general, was ailurophobic, which means afraid of cats. If all those people he conquered had let out their house cats, maybe he’d have run away. I can picture Charlie and Cleo chasing Napoleon back to his ship, with his crazy hat falling off his head as he ran, and the two cats all fierce and proud of living up to their names at last.” – page 109 (After reading this quote, I did some research to find out that Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Hitler were also all possible ailurophobes. Then, to get even more off track, I found a website called Cats That Look Like Hitler.)

“…Sam has developed a new habit of walking backward everywhere he goes. He says he wants to see people as he leaves them so that if they die, he’ll remember their faces. This is a weird new habit on top of his other weird habits.” – page 44

Cover: 3.5/5 – I like the color scheme. The orange and red snake vividly contrasts with the lime green background, and I enjoy the handwritten font. However, the snake could be a little more snakish, which would possibly make the cover more distinguished.

Rating: 4 hoots

Source: Library

1 comment:

  1. This sounds so cute :)
    I cry in almost all books so if I pick this up, I'd be bawling. Great review, short and sweet!