A sentient statue, deep in the ocean, falls in love with her rescuer, only to be separated from him in this fablelike novel for middle-grade readers.
On the seafloor stands a sculpture of a pretty girl “carved from the purest milk-white stone.” Then a boy diver, Niko, lifts her from the seabed with ropes, dubbing her Pearl. He fantasizes aloud about standing with Pearl on the balcony of a pink stucco hotel, and she falls in love with him; over time, though, he grows up while Pearl stays the same. When Niko sells Pearl, her heart breaks. In her new home, a statue of a wise old man explains that “We are the solidified dreams of a sculptor”; they can also talk and think in what he calls the “old language,” or the speech of the “Big Dream from which we all…are born….We silently speak to [people], helping them to recall what they have lost and forgotten.” The sage instructs Pearl about the world and its secrets (for example, that “Knowledge, and her sister Wisdom, are born from Ideas”); Pearl listens closely, hoping to find a way back to Niko. Her greatest wish is to be flesh and blood, and the Sage advises her to “utter [her] improbable desire to the stars.” A local revolution among humans brings chaos, and Pearl is eventually sold to a pink stucco hotel. There, she makes a final, earnest wish. Kindall (Delivering Virtue, 2015, etc.) taps into the mythic for this fable about rejoining life after having been frozen—a storyline that readers could interpret psychologically, spiritually, or intellectually as a reawakening. The Sage’s education of Pearl fits in with the human idea of growing up, leaving childhood behind, and understanding one’s greater place in the world. Although the book is aimed at children, adults are more likely to find interest in the Sage’s ideas. However, they’re also more likely to criticize them; for example, if “the Cosmos is in league with every one of its inhabitants,” for example, then why do so many innocents suffer?
A story with a delicate, intriguing voice, but its philosophy may not appeal to everyone.