A charming contemporary fantasy that sees teenager Zo grapple with her stubborn Ukrainian grandmother Baba Dolia.
In southern Alberta, Canada, cowboy Vince Lapin knows firsthand that rodeo riding is dangerous work. Audiences, however, want more entertainment. The summer solstice on June 21 finds him watching rodeo clowns audition. When a rider suddenly goes down and is at the bull’s mercy, a young woman runs to him out of nowhere. Quickly pulling the rider to safety, she saves both their lives. Vince suspects she’d be perfect as a rodeo clown. Cut to a central Alberta poultry farm. Yuli and Iryna are trying to tell their teenage daughter, Zo, that life will be different when her grandmother comes from the Ukraine to live with them. But Zo has only one thing on her mind: rabbits. To smooth the transition to life with Baba Dolia, Zo’s parents buy her a bunny named Susie. Zo, for her part, is elated and ready to help her grandmother settle in. Then Baba Dolia arrives—along with her huge, ferocious dog, Perun. Worse, the elderly woman is grouchy, demanding and has little tolerance for a verminous rabbit on the premises. Susie gets caught in the middle of a generational feud that takes a shockingly magical turn. With remarkable sleight of hand, author Stringam connects events on the farm with the rodeo scene that opened the novel. The first hint that things aren’t what they seem comes when Vince uses poetic spoken magic: “Swiftly running winds of eternity flowing into lovely zephyr of summer blossoms.” Susie, when she talks, often says similar things, proverbs she calls “rabbit-lip.” In segments from the critter’s perspective, readers learn that she aspires to be an Easter Bunny, delivering dyed eggs in the Ukrainian pysanky tradition. Frequently, Stringam proves an expert on real rabbits as well as the Calgary Stampede rodeo, as she layers the perfect amount of detail into what is essentially Zo’s wondrous coming-of-age tale, one that new readers and devotees of magical realism shouldn’t miss.
Meticulously crafted, fanciful but never too sweet, this magical adventure hums along pleasingly.