Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Friendship, Friendship, Just a Perfect Blendship?
So many great novels have friendship at the heart.
The challenges. The comfort. The giddy silliness. The support. The heartbreak.
Shug and Project Mulberry fit right in to that grand tradition.
Shug has the the whole gamut of friendship issues with not just one friend, but two - Mark and Elaine. (And in some ways, with a whole group of her other old friends.) The time frame of the novel is especially significant as the entire gang is moving from grade school to junior high. Yeah, that just sent a chill down your spine, right? Everyone remembers the seismic shifts that occur in the tectonic plates of your world with those first steps into adolescence. Yikes! Shug finds herself drawn to her best friend Mark in entirely new ways (why do I have the overwhelming urge to kiss him??) and finds herself becoming distanced from Elaine as Elaine is drawn into her first boy-girl relationship. And last, but not least, is Shug's surprising and satisfying connection with annoying Jack Connelly. I enjoyed Shug's voice and appreciated the care Han takes with the portraits of the various families and households of the main players. I was awake a long time thinking back to my own junior high era -- and how my own childhood friendships were altered in many ways.
Project Mulberry's heroine, Jules, has friendship issues centered around her long-time best bud, Patrick. Jules and Patrick are also now in 7th grade, but the book does not take a long view of the class as a whole, choosing instead to focus on these two close pals as they embark on a special club project for the state fair. Though the main thrust is the project - raising silkworms from eggs and creating an embroidery project from the thread - Park stirs in a number of other elements: racism, honesty, siblings, changing visions of your parents. One of the most interesting bits in the book, are Park's interwoven "conversations" between herself and Jules. I was leery when I hit the first one - but I have to admit that I enjoyed it and the glimpse it provides into her writing process. Park has written some wonderful books. This one is no exception.
Posted by ZG at 7:11 PM