This inventive fable tells of a special snake, the young girl it befriends, and the things they learn from each other.
Mary is “a remarkable, wise little girl” who enjoys a garden about the size of a big tablecloth atop a building in which the “pipes only leaked on Mondays and Wednesdays.” Sometimes food is short, but her city is “filled with good things.” Then a small golden snake named Lanmo appears. It is “immensely handsome,” wise, agile, and possessed of “a beautiful speaking voice” that can be “like buttered velvet” or “like being hugged with warm towels after a long bath.” The snake teaches the “Very Attractive Girls” at Mary’s school not to be nasty partly by turning into “a giant glimmering golden cobra rising from the dirty tarmac of the playground.” Kennedy (Serious Sweet, 2016, etc.) will doubtless charm many readers in the early pages of this novella, but it’s soon clear that she has more in mind. For one thing, the snake leaves Mary and speeds around the world to remove from life those whose time has come. Yes, Lanmo, whose “tiny needle teeth shone white as bone,” is the grim creeper. For another, when he returns to Mary from often long periods of biting, her life among the have-nots has worsened, until she must leave her city and seek a new life elsewhere. Kennedy manages the considerable feat of touching freshly and often amusingly on friendship, love, honesty, education, hunger, greed, aging, war, courage, and displacement without getting preachy or patronizing. Her own voice recalls Lewis Carroll and his gift for taking children and their challenges seriously while using language and logic to have fun in the process.
A delightful read with the earmarks of a classic.