This is a book that is hard to fit into any genre box. While at first it seems to be about faith, the reader slowly becomes aware that this great power that has been bestowed upon Judith is in fact a terrible curse. Judith makes moves that are designed to create stability in her world, and by acting, she sets a chain of events into motion that cannot be stopped. While I was reading, I became intensely aware of how deeply psychologically disturbing the story actually was. Judith goes from being publicly teased to having her family become privately tortured as she seeks to gain control of a force that is terrifying and malignant. A quiet and reflective child, Judith becomes heady with excitement over her “miracles,” but before she even realizes what’s happening, her world becomes littered with violence and anger.
One of the most intense aspects of this book was the relationship that Judith has with her father. He is both commanding and responsible, but never loving or gentle. The young girl strives so desperately to make her father love her, but this task seems momentous. He is silent when Judith needs him to be loud. He is broken when she needs him to be whole. All this she knows and states baldly and without emotion. Judith’s father doesn’t love her. Or does he? From the point of view of the child he seems emotionally very distant and cold, but it’s easy for the adult reader to acknowledge that Judith’s father is still grieving over the loss of his wife and sees Judith as a reminder. As the child tries to form and shape a new reality, her goal of making her father truly see her without ambivalence is brought to light again and again.
The city in Judith’s room is perfect. There are no boys named Neil putting snot in her hair or calling her nasty names. There is no hatred nor malice, and no religious exclusion. It’s her utopia. But when Judith is finally pushed to the edge, she begins to wish for some dangerous things that are designed to bring retribution but end up bringing wrath upon herself and her father. And as the tale begins to twist from a fairylike dream of magic and miracles to something more dark and sinister, Judith begins to change too. She manifests a series of behaviors that, while not uncommon for an unloved and bullied child, are so drastically unlike herself that the danger she’s in spits up from the page right into the reader’s face. Judith’s pain is alive and well, and she begins to twist her world into something quite dark indeed.
This was a very dark but satisfying read, and one that left me feeling like I had been right there with Judith through every miracle and repercussion, making images of light from the darkness and treading the very thin ice that she’s found herself stranded upon. It made me think very deeply about the mind of a child and what impressions can be made upon it. If you’re up for a read that will challenge your sensibilities on the differences between saints and sinners, this is surely a read that will pack a punch for you. Recommended.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.