2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
Every year there seems to be a book that stays with me long after I've turned the last page. And when someone asks me for a good book recommendation, it's the first one that comes to mind. The Land of Decoration - a debut novel by Grace McCleen is one of those books.
Ten year old Judith McPherson lives in England with her father, her mother having passed away...
Published 20 months ago by Luanne Ollivier
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought-Provoking Read
Reason for Reading: Very intriguing plot captured my interest.
This is a tough book to review. I loved parts of it and disliked other parts of it. Mainly, I adored the main character, 10yo Judith, in whose voice the narrative is written. She is naive and not always a reliable narrator but we are given events from her point of view as she sees them happen...
Published 18 months ago by Nicola Mansfield
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it,
This review is from: The Land Of Decoration: A Novel (Hardcover)Every year there seems to be a book that stays with me long after I've turned the last page. And when someone asks me for a good book recommendation, it's the first one that comes to mind. The Land of Decoration - a debut novel by Grace McCleen is one of those books.
Ten year old Judith McPherson lives in England with her father, her mother having passed away. She attends school, but is bullied and isolated, primarily because of the religious beliefs that she and her father follow.
And sometimes Judith escapes into her own little world - one she has created in her room from rubbish.
"There is a world in my room. It is made from things no one else wanted and it is made with things that were my mother's, that she left to me, and it has taken most of my life to make."
She calls this world The Land of Decoration. She has taken this name from the book of Ezekiel - the land of milk and honey, a paradise for the faithful in the afterlife - The Promised Land. For Judith, it is where she will see her mother again.
When Judith transforms her Land of Decoration into a snow covered blizzard and it happens in reality, she believes she is responsible. " Miracles happen because someone made them and because someone, somewhere, had faith." And she's doubly sure she's responsible as God told her she was.
The bullying amplifies, as does the unrest at the factory Judith's father works at. And so does Judith's belief that she has the power to create miracles and change things. And God's voice is getting louder.
I was so mesmerized by this book. I couldn't read it straight through, but had to put it down and come back later as my emotions were in a turmoil. Judith's voice was heartbreaking in so many ways. McCleen has created a character in Judith that just grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I found myself stopping to ponder many of her views. I wanted so badly to help her as she faced so much more than a ten year old should. McCleen's depictions of the other main players are just as well done. Judith's father is another poignant portrayal that was difficult to accept and read at times.
McCleen's books explores so many themes - love, hate, tolerance, persecution, belief, faith and more, but ultimately is about the love between a parent and child.
I wonder how much of Judith's story is Grace's story. She was raised in a fundamentalist religious environment and has a strong interest in miniatures as well. I think readers are either going to love or hate McCleen's book, much like Emma Donoghue's Room. This reader loved it. (so did Emma Donoghue)
4.0 out of 5 stars A girl's tale,
This review is from: The Land Of Decoration: A Novel (Hardcover)The Land of Decoration is 10-year-old Judith's telling of her life events, including her unusual relationship with her father, her longing for her dead mother, her trials at school, and her involvement in a "the world's going to end" religious sect. There's even labour strife thrown in for good measure. A lot goes on in this girl's life and her Land of Decoration is her coping mechanism. Very much liked the premise of the book.
5.0 out of 5 stars A story that will tear at your heartstrings,
This review is from: The Land Of Decoration: A Novel (Hardcover)Grace McCleen's first novel, The Land of Decoration was totally engrossing. Told in the voice of a 10 year old motherless girl, Judith, who lives with her father, a devoutly religious man who believes they are living in the End Days, just before the rapture, when God will destroy the earth and take the faithful with him to the "Land of Decoration" or heaven. This is all Judith has known in her 10 years, that the world will soon end and they have to tell as many people as possible so they can be saved. She knows this because that's what her father and the elders at her church have told her. Judith never knew her mother who died around the time of her birth and her father, who seems desperately unhappy as he puts one foot in front of the other, dogmatically follows his religious beliefs and insists that Judith do the same.
McCleen does an excellent job of putting the reader in the mind of this little girl, seeing the story unfold through her eyes. As we read this story we see the events Judith is experiencing through our own understanding, but we can put ourselves in her place, with her beliefs, and it's just heartbreaking in some parts because it almost makes you want to intervene and explain the way things really are. Or the way we think they are. It makes you want to put your arms around her and comfort her. This is a book that will make you think and possibly put yourself in the place of people who think differently about religion and existence and life in general.
Some situations in the book were kind of a mystery, even after finishing it. Much of what Judith experienced was through her imagination and belief system but I was left wondering how much of it was real. Her "Land of Decoration" or small world she created from bits of junk and scraps in her room was often her escape from the real world and all of the problems and sadness that she encountered. It's a book I can't stop thinking about after finishing it. I look forward to more books by this author.
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought-Provoking Read,
This review is from: The Land Of Decoration: A Novel (Hardcover)Reason for Reading: Very intriguing plot captured my interest.
This is a tough book to review. I loved parts of it and disliked other parts of it. Mainly, I adored the main character, 10yo Judith, in whose voice the narrative is written. She is naive and not always a reliable narrator but we are given events from her point of view as she sees them happen. I read the book very quickly over two days and had a hard time putting the book down. Parts of it were just lovely, other parts I heartily disagreed with. As a Christian, I don't feel the author is making a grand statement one way or the other about Christianity as a whole. I do think she is using this powerful message of father/daughter relationship, a mother's death, a girl's bullying because of her religion to show that bad things happen, even when we have the best intentions. That fanaticism of anything is never good. That God does not "let" bad things happen, we make our own choices and suffer the consequences of them, as rightly we should.
Judith carries this book. She and her father belong to this unnamed religious fringe group (never named, but disclaimed to be Mormons) which is obsessed with the End Times. Otherwise they seem harmless enough, much of their Christian doctrine can be found in true Christian denominations but then it has been twisted in a way to make it what it is in this book. This may offend some Christian readers, but I take it that it is fiction and that these kind of kooky Christian sects do does exist though they are not the norm. This group for the most part follows Christ; it is its obsession with Armageddon which removes it from the focus of Christ. Non-Christians may find the book too full of Christian references, Bible quotations and simple plain Christian living; this may annoy them or unfortunately make them think this fringe group is somehow representative of "normal" Christianity.
These are the things I didn't like about the book; the constant fighting in my head with the representation of these "Christians". Something profound would be said and then something equally laughable would be said. As to the story otherwise, it was very good. Judith is a naive girl who asks big questions of her father, the grown-ups at church, about religion and life. She is always asking "why?" and she is respected for her clever questions. At school it is the same, except with the other children, and one boy in particular, who bullies and teases her relentlessly because she is an outcast from them. Not allowed to attend morning assembly, wearing plain clothes, and talking easily about God, Armageddon and the Den of Iniquity of the modern world. No matter what is happening in this world around her; her being bullied, her dad being a scab, boy's taunting their house in the evening's Judith does believe in God and talks to him. He has started to answer her back and miracles have started to happen. Perhaps this is all in the confused girl's head or perhaps she is a real mystic. But you will fall in love with Judith and root for her as she tries to cope with a sad life that left her motherless and alone with a father who does everything he can for her but does not know how to show love and affection.
This book is going to take some time for me to ruminate on before I really decide whether I think it was just OK or Good. I did like it; I'm just not sure how much. The ending was underwhelming and with all the religion/God emphasis throughout I expected something more uplifting than what we were given. The book did have some moments of sage wisdom and at other times I was left shaking me head. The instructions for making a hot air balloon, I do understand their significance but as an ending it leaves one dumbstruck. If you love stories about people pondering the purposes of God in their lives this will be the book for you.
5.0 out of 5 stars unforgettable!,
This review is from: The Land of Decoration: A Novel (Hardcover)We read, "My name is Judith McPherson. I am ten years old. On Monday a miracle happened. That is what I'm going to call it. And I did it all." Now, that's an extraordinary statement for anyone to make, let alone a little girl. But then, The Land of Decoration is an extraordinary story. It is affecting, profound, unforgettable.
Judith is a precocious schoolgirl who is growing up with her Bible reading/quoting widowed father among Christian fundamentalists who believe Armageddon is just around the corner. She's ostracized and bullied by her classmates because of her beliefs. Judith finds comfort in her room, a place where she has created a world with objects she has found and bits of junk - a shoelace is a garden hose, rivers are made of crepe paper, plastic wrap and tinfoil, houses are made with chocolate-dip-cookie cartons, matchboxes. After she has finished her make believe world Judith borrows from Ezekiel, looks at it and sees that it is good.
It is in this atmosphere that Judith reaches the conclusion that she can talk with God, actually carry on a conversation. Not only that but she believes that she can perform miracles by rearranging or changing her small world. What she believes to be her first miracle is a surprising snow storm that closes the roads and school. Thus, she is protected from an especially frightening bully. However, as time passes the bully and his friends become more aggressive in their actions against the McPherson's and Judith escalates her "miraculous" happenings.
In time Judith learns there are consequences involved in the choices she has made. Now, what can she or should she do?
- Gail Cooke
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The Land Of Decoration: A Novel by Grace McCleen (Hardcover - March 27 2012)
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