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ZAZOO by Richard Mosher Kirkus Star


by Richard Mosher

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2001
ISBN: 0-618-13534-0
Publisher: Clarion

A slow and almost dreamlike exploration of the myriad ways that the past—especially a cataclysmic past—informs the present. Zazoo, almost 14 at the opening, was adopted from Vietnam at the age of two and lives in an old mill by a French canal with the man she calls Grand-Pierre; he’s the lock-keeper. As Grand-Pierre’s memory fades, a mysterious and attractive young man bicycles into Zazoo’s life, asking questions. Soon Zazoo finds herself probing the past that created her Grand-Pierre, M. Klein, the elderly Jewish pharmacist who alone among the villagers shows no love for Grand-Pierre, and herself, orphaned by a landmine in a later war. Mosher’s (The Taxi Navigator, 1996) sense of setting is luminous, and the descriptions of life along the canal evoke Wind in the Willows in their watery beauty. The slow revelation of the many intertwined personal histories is truly elegant, and the several love stories that emerge are almost painfully romantic. Zazoo’s voice is honest and distinct as she tells her story; the secondary characters develop with real three-dimensional complexity as well. This is a story of memory and contemplation, not action, with most of the elements unfolding slowly over the course of a year through dialogue and reminiscence. It is perhaps over-constructed in its piecing together of the various plot elements and its drive to tie them up neatly by the end, but patient readers will find themselves forgiving this and the slow pace in their involvement with the language and the characters’ evolving relationships, particularly the glorious symbiosis achieved by Zazoo and her Grand-Pierre. (Fiction. YA)