Friday, January 18, 2019

Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle

"I wanted to come down and speak to you girls. 
I know what you're doing. ... I give my raft to you."

I know this is an odd way to begin my review but this book has 240 pages and for 239 pages I was entranced. Then I reached the last page and well, I don’t like to say this, but I felt confused. Perhaps I need to read the final chapters again.

Ms Yingling said: “The ending was a bit odd. It didn’t really wrap things up in any successful way. I don’t like it when I get to the end of a book and expect there to be more pages when there aren’t.”

Putting the ending to one side I absolutely loved the atmosphere created by Janet Taylor Lisle. I felt as though I was on this pond, watching Jessie and her new friend Terri, repairing their raft and lazing in the sunshine. 

Jessie, Jonathan and Julia are staying in an old rundown cottage for the summer. Their father Richard Kettle has memories of his summer job and summer friendships in this New England beach side town. Mum has stayed behind in Pittsburgh working hard in her legal practice.

The scene and long summer should mean lazy days and easy living but we learn early in the story this town has a past and this past continues to have a devastating impact on the present.

Many decades ago, when Miss Henrietta was a small girl, two men arrived late one night. They entered the old and grand family home near the pond intent on robbery and murder. Henrietta is the only living witness to this horror. The wrong man is accused. This man languished in jail for many years and eventually he dies there. He is Terri's grandfather, Eddie Carr, and the town has never forgotten or forgiven.

Henrietta has returned to the old home. She is now very elderly, frail and dependent on others. To her carers it seems her mind is muddled but she remembers every tiny detail of the events leading up to the murder of her parents. She also remembers her happy times rafting on the pond when she was a child. She is delighted when she spies Jessie and Terri on her raft. It needs repairs but that is not a problem. Her father's workshop still has all the tools and lumber the girls will need.

Jessie knows her friend Terri is connected with the murder from long ago and she wants to believe her grandfather is innocent. Terri's mother has died, and her father, Mitch Carr, is now very violent and often drunk. Life is so hard for Terri. Jessie wants to help but has no idea how. Then there is a fire. Henrietta's workshop and garage burn down and suspicion once again falls on the Carr family. Jessie needs to be sure there is justice for her friend and justice for the events of the past.

Here are some examples of the wonderful descriptions by Janet Taylor Lisle:

Arriving at the holiday cottage:  "They lugged in duffels, scrubbed out the gangrenous fridge, sponged off the counters, and emptied drawers littered with mouse droppings."

Julia: "was beautiful, everyone said so. She had a heart-shaped face, unblemished skin, and chocolate-brown eyes with thick brown lashes that curled up naturally at the ends. She would never in her life need a drop of mascara."

Terri "She could be quiet. Sometimes she didn't speak for an hour or more. She kept apart during these spells. She'd walk away and sit by herself, fingering the name charm on her throat and looking at the pond."

The setting of this book reminded me of The small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis.  I would follow this book with Half a Chance and Return to Gone-away.

Here is an interview with the author Janet Taylor Lisle. I plan to hunt out more of her books very soon. Read this review for more plot details. Listen to part of Chapter One here. Quicksand Pond began as a short story by Janet Taylor Lisle. My copy of this book also included a set of discussion questions.

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