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by A. LaFaye

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: June 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-81514-X
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A wildly unlikely tale of family love and near-loss from LaFaye (Nissa’s Place, 1999, etc.). Fourth-grader (and narrator) Ebon Jones is the ordinary-man-out in his zany family: his little brother is a math whiz and a master storyteller; his older sister is a costume designer without parallel; his mother carves gargoyles for a living; and his father, a researcher for other people’s historical novels, pours his creative energies into fantastic building projects, including a two-story castle in the backyard and the town’s annual haunted house. During work on that project, he suffers a mysterious brain injury that renders him comatose and separates his spirit from his body. This spirit manifests itself initially, and most strongly, to Ebon, who takes it upon himself to reunite his father’s body and soul to bring him back. What ensues is a string of reunification attempts punctuated by fond reminiscences of his father’s wild and crazy ways. The sheer outsized wonderfulness of Dad and studied uniqueness of the family make the story hard to swallow, as does the scattershot approach to reunification—some of Ebon’s efforts feel arbitrarily added to stretch the story out, rather than to serve a cohesive narrative. The setting is incompletely established and does not communicate itself to the reader: all the settings seem impossibly close together with very little geography in between, and the weather is remarkably—and unremarked as such—mild for Minneapolis in November. The final climactic scene, in which Ebon goes with his father through . . . the Underworld? Limbo? . . . well, someplace between life and death, is as incompletely realized as the setting. The family dynamic is enjoyable, if unbelievable, but this is not enough to rescue this confused effort. Revisit Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Farthest Shore instead. (Fiction. 8-12)