The Alphabet Stones by Ursula Pflug

Posted by on Jul 4, 2014 in Book Reviews, Ontario | 0 comments

The Alphabet StonesSummary: Living on a commune with her older sister Alana and her best friend Ethan, Jody encounters a particularly difficult summer during her fourteen year when everything seems to change, thrusting her into a new life she wasn’t anticipating. Looking back years later, the story of that summer and the years following come flowing out of her, and Jody is able to examine the details of what was really going on, turning over the events in her mind. Resolution comes when Jody encounters people from her past, but the truth of her heritage might mean she is caught between two worlds forever.

Number of Pages: 223

Age Range: 17-18

Review: Though Jody is a grown-up when she tells the story of the summer of her fourteen year, in many ways she is still that fourteen year-old, in love with the guy who loves her sister, trying to live without the presence of her mother, and struggling to determine what is real and what is not.

There were things that confused me about Pflug’s story. Why did Snake want Jody to be unable to go to the fairy world? I don’t understand why Pflug develops the whole storyline of two half siblings being able to connect in their otherness, only to have the one sibling be able to go to the fairy world and the other sibling be stuck on earth. Who is there for Jody to connect with, if she is indeed the product of her mother’s affair with a mystical man?

I wasn’t truly sure if Jody and her mother were connected to the spirit world or dealing with mental illness. Did Jody’s mother disappear into the fairy world, or did she just go live on another commune? Was Jody’s older brother the victim of SIDS and buried by their mother or was he taken by his father to live in the fairy world? I thought Sam’s view of the situation was enlightening, and I included it in my Memorable Quotes.

Ultimately I wanted a happy ending for Jody. Perhaps it’s naïve and I know life doesn’t work always work out that way, but I hated how her half-blood status meant she caught between the fairy world and the human world, not really at home in either place. Ethan, the man she has feelings for, continues to see her more as a little sister and has yearnings of his own which take him away at his slightest inclination. By the end of the book, Jody has no real home, and while I thought a relationship might develop between her and Randy, it didn’t. Is she doomed to be alone? Does she want to be alone or is there just no way for her to overcome her upbringing to form a satisfying relationship?

That said, it’s a beautiful book. Pflug’s writing is poetic and mystical, and I enjoyed the philosophical musings that her story brings about. Jody’s story is like a Grimm brothers’ fairy tale, and I like that it’s a bit of a crossover between a teen and adult book. I think it can be enjoyed by both.

Memorable Quotes:

“It was as if the land took un-grown parts of Alana and me inside herself, the parts severed and cauterized by our mother’s absence, until we were old enough to begin the long trek of healing. If a starfish can grow a new limb, why can’t a human being? Do we have so few skills, compared to a little sea creature?” – Jody from The Alphabet Stones by Ursula Pflug, page 17

“It’s been said before, and it’s still true: teenagers are morons. Truth is, adults are too. Hardly any of the, get any wiser; they just learn to hide their fuckwittedness or to work around it. That is what mainly passes for wisdom in our world. The truer kind is a little rarer.” – Jody from The Alphabet Stones by Ursula Pflug, page 26

“One day I kept going farther into the woods beyond unused pastures. I rested in the arms of ancient maples, and paused to watch a coyote mother and her pups stray out of the cedar swamp. My head swelled up with the strangeness of it: the magic. In the clearings I talked to milkweeds; it felt normal and sane, and I only worried a little that I was losing my mind. One step further and it would be gone, all of what civilized me: my manners, my toilet training, my ability to use cutlery and to do up my buttons and tie shoes. Whatever it all is. We think we’ll come aparts if we leave it behind, even for one short soul-kissed moment, but what I found was the opposite, that I came together.” – Jody from The Alphabet Stones by Ursula Pflug, page 48

“‘When you were a kid would you have believe the world we’re living in now? Would you have believed your life?’ I asked.

‘I didn’t believe it then. It’s been a long time since the world’s been believable.’ Randy got up from his red stool to turn on the coffee machine, his movement stirring the dust motes dancing in the shafts of sunlight.” – Conversation between Jody and Randy from The Alphabet Stones by Ursula Pflug, page 99

“Sam’s mouth twisted. ‘To tell me my daughter wasn’t mine – you know, I could actually accept that, Jody. Marriage can be difficult. People make terrible mistakes, unable to discern the other’s needs because their own unmet needs loom so large. But against all odds the marriage can survive, the partners manage to grow a little. It wasn’t a weakness for us to stay together. It wasn’t a weakness for me to accept you as my own, to raise you as my own. Although some would say it was. But Lucie Jardinière, colluding with your mother in her fairy story. To this day I don’t know whether your mother was deceitful or just delusional.” – Sam from The Alphabet Stones by Ursula Pflug, page 191

“When Alana and Paul visited in Vancouver, we didn’t talk about the missing. I sat and looked at my sister’s beautiful young husband and wondered what he would make of being a father. I knew my sister loved him, and that they would have beautiful children, and that, while they might be poor, they would have the land. The land was its own kind of wealth, even when it didn’t bring in a cent.

More than I could say for myself.

It is only the land and the children that matter.” – Jody from The Alphabet Stones by Ursula Pflug, page 204

The Alphabet Stones by Ursula Pflug is published by Blue Denim Press, (2013).

(Buy this book: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

 

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