Clay

Melissa Harrison. Bloomsbury, $24 (224p) ISBN 978-1-60819-978-5
The alluring pull of nature unites four strangers in this overly ambitious debut. At the center of it all is young TC, a lonely nine-year-old kid with an indifferent mother, absent father, and a penchant for skipping school to spend time in a city park, a place of solace for him. There he befriends Jozef, a Polish immigrant nostalgic for life back on his family’s farm; recently widowed Sophia, who is more afraid of relying on her distant daughter than she is of her increasingly alarming heart palpitations (her husband died of a heart attack); and Sophia’s precocious granddaughter, Daisy, sheltered by an overprotective mother but intensely curious about the world. As TC’s home life unravels, he seeks a haven in the secret garden of the park, where he can live closer to nature, but an unfortunate misunderstanding brings the real world crashing down on everyone. Chapter titles named after traditional harvest feasts indicate the passing of time—the novel unfolds over the course of a year—and the pure and poetic descriptions of nature mark the changing seasons beautifully. Although Harrison’s lush images of the natural world rescue the story somewhat, they leave little room for meaningful development of the characters or any real sense of connection between them. Agent: Jenny Jewson, Rogers, Coleridge & White (U.K.). (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/17/2012
Release date: 02/19/2013
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