Book Reviewed by Thumper
Eden, the debut novel by Olympia Vernon, is a powerful coming of age tale. It is
an extraordinary novel, one that offers magnificent artistry in addition to the
unveiling of Olympia Vernon as a gifted new writer. Eden is a reason to
celebrate and is one of the highlights of my reading year.
Maddy Dangerfield is a bright, slightly rebellious, 14-year old girl living in Pyke County, Mississippi. she is at A stage where she questions and probes the boundaries in her life. After Maddy causes a scandal in her Bible study class, her mother Faye tells her that she has to take care of her dying Aunt Pip. Faye and Pip haven't spoken in years, not since Faye found out Pip was sleeping with her husband, Chevrolet. Maddy will learn life lessons and uncover secrets while caring for her aunt.
Eden is a marvelous novel, and possesses a magnetism that I easily surrendered to. Author Vernon created a world that was so immediate, I could touch and smell it. The book is unsettling, because it is occupied by people with broken hearts and shattered spirits -- all seeking redemption and getting lost -- who move to the beat of a lilting melody. I loved Eden. If it were possible to give Eden a standing ovation, I would, in a heartbeat.
Eden is a character-driven novel. I was both enamored of and repulsed by the characters. Vernon stripped them of all facade and left only their raw emotions of hurt, love and confusion. I can not praise Vernon's development of her characters too highly. Faye, Chevrolet and Pip were unique, complex, and damaged, but the piece de resistance in Vernon's assortment of characters is the fascinating Maddy.
Ordinarily, I have no tolerance for children and teenagers in adult literature because authors make them too Leave It To Beaver-ish or bland and uninteresting. However, Maddy is an exception. She is inquisitive, likeable, and fearless in searching for answers, and she possesses a compelling voice that makes her irresistible. I loved watching Maddy travel her path of self-discovery. She is every bit as memorable and gripping as To Kill A Mockingbird 's Scout and Catcher In The Rye's Holden Caulfield.
Eden also possessed a surprisingly geniune spiritual quality. On her path of self discovery, Maddy realizes God in her own time, and by her own measure -- an incredible event. I am not a fan of religious, inspirational books, but Eden revealed its inspiration by having Maddy find her own sense of morality, and discovering what God means to her personally. Vernon never preached, nor does Eden have the scent of a How-I-Found-Jesus book. Here Vernon shows Maddy acquiring faith, real faith and I found it heartwarming.
Vernon's voice is distinctive and secure. Her poignant and lyrical writing style touches the heart. I felt as if Vernon had me viewing Maddy's life from the left side of reality. I was reminded of the emotional depth and intelligence similar to Gayl Jones' artistry In Corregidora and Eva's Man. I was thrilled.
Eden is an unforgettable novel of naked power, moving to the timbre and rhythm of a hypnotic lullaby. I couldn't help but be moved by its artistry and stunned by its beauty. Olympia Vernon is an immense talent, and I am delighted to welcome her to the literary scene. I live for her next novel.