The tribulations of a girl who thinks she can work miracles.
Ten-year-old Judith McPherson doesn’t have an easy time of it at home or in school. Her widowed father belongs to a fundamentalist Christian sect that believes Armageddon is imminent; their weekend forays bringing the good/bad news to their neighbors in a provincial English factory town make her the butt of ruthless bullying by her classmates, in particular the odious Neil Lewis. Judith takes refuge from it all by crafting from trash picked up on the street a miniature world in her bedroom she calls the Land of Decoration, after the paradise flowing with milk and honey described in the Bible. Threatened with a particularly gruesome punishment by Neil, Judith follows the guidance of an internal voice she later identifies as God and places cotton snow all over the Land of Decoration; when an October blizzard closes school the next day, she’s convinced she has wrought a miracle, and essays a few more to punish nasty Neil. With the arrival of a kindly new teacher who puts a stop to Neil’s bullying, it seems Judith’s troubles may be over, but they only get worse. Her father’s refusal to participate in a strike (“Caesar’s things to Caesar,” he explains to Judith) leads to bad feelings with a coworker who happens to be Neil’s brutal father. Neil leads a gang of boys in increasingly violent attacks on the McPhersons’ house, and her father’s furious response ultimately leads to his estrangement from their church. Judith thinks her miracles are to blame for the whole mess and comes scarily close to suicide before she realizes that her sad, distant father really does love her. Debut author McCleen creates a believable, compelling voice for the youthful narrator, and her portrait of a bereaved father is equally affecting, though the novel’s claustrophobic atmosphere will not be to everyone’s taste.
An odd but haunting debut.