Fifth-grader Alice Dingwell believes it is her fault her father has gone away, and she struggles to find her footing in her changed life.
When Alice was a young child, she followed a silken strand of thread to a giant web in the forest. Her father, Buzz, a hockey hero in their depressed Maine mill town, told her it was a Story Web, an essential part of the Earth’s well-being. Now, five years later, Alice’s father has checked himself into a psychiatric hospital after serving in Afghanistan, and Alice’s only connection with him is through his letters, which wander in and out of reality. Alice’s guilt over her perceived role in her father’s unraveling propels her to shrink from life, keeping others at a distance and quitting the hockey team. But when forest animals begin showing up in town and seem to specifically seek Alice out, she wonders if the Story Web is in danger and, reluctantly at first, begins to seek answers. Blakemore’s ambitious tale, like her fine and original web premise, is filled with many adjunct threads. Most weave together strongly, but some feel underdeveloped. That said, the story’s essential theme—the importance of trust and connection in the health of a community—is an important one in this divisive time. Alice is white, and the rest of the community seems to be white as well.
An ambitious and mostly successful tale about stories and their essential role in creating connection. (Fantasy. 8-11)