A girl uses the key to her grandparent’s sock drawer to unlock lesson-rich adventures in this fantasy novel.
After her grandmother’s death, 13-year-old Sukey Durand travels with her father from San Diego to southeast Georgia, where they remain for some time to prepare her late grandma’s house for sale. One day, Sukey gets a letter addressed only to her, to be opened in private. The missive is from her late grandmother, and includes what the elderly woman called “my most precious treasure”: the key to her sock drawer. Inside the drawer are three very different pairs of socks: one that’s warm and woolly; one that’s patterned with puppies; and lacy footies. Donning each pair takes Sukey on surprising voyages to three magical lands. The first is inhabited by people with either pig or mule faces; in the second are talking frogs, who are facing oppression. Finally, Sukey visits a cave of memories, where family trees grow upside down. In each location, the girl learns lessons, such as how to teach mulish and pigheaded people to get along by recognizing one another’s strengths. Meanwhile, she learns more about her grandmother and a source of family estrangement, and realizes that “Things that go wrong need to start anew.” In her debut book, Agauas mixes adventure and Christian allegory in a way that’s mildly reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. This is most evident in the middle section, set in the city of Mare-C in the land of Evol (“love” spelled backward). Here, a Christlike figure called Amik, a beaver, repudiates the evil Skunk Bear, reminding everyone that “all debts are covered for all those that choose to live and love in Mare-C.” The scenes are imaginative and not too heavy-handed, but sometimes the book strains for effect; Sukey takes an agonizingly long time—likely well past the point of readers’ patience—to open the letter, find the drawer, and unlock it, and her thoughts are frequently slowed by melodramatic digressions in the form of massed, one-sentence paragraphs.
A histrionic but reflective story about gaining maturity and knowledge.