Children’s author Laguna (Too Loud Lily, 2004, etc.) takes a dark turn in her first novel for adults.
Imprisoned in her home by a fanatically religious mother and a cowed father, Hester has almost no contact with the outside world. Her universe is defined by the interior of her house, snatched glimpses of the outside, an illustrated Bible and, most crucially, her imagination. Hester befriends every object she beholds and crafts magnificent fantasies. From the outside, her existence seems lonely and bleak—her parents don’t just neglect her; they actively abuse her—but it is actually full of wonders. Laguna does an admirable job of creating a credible, fully formed young protagonist and narrator. She knows that a child’s experience, no matter how horrific it might be, seems natural and normal to the child. Hester’s innocence is compounded by her isolation: She has virtually no opportunity to understand how wrong her life is. The chief accomplishment of this strange and difficult novel is her unique voice. Laguna writes with lyrical economy, and her craft elevates a tale which in its bare outlines seems like sensational tabloid fare.
A disturbing story graced by powerful, poetic prose.