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Book of the Week: The Land of Decoration
Every Monday, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we're obsessed with the gripping, beautiful novel:
The Land of Decoration
by Grace McCleen
"I know about faith," says 10-year-old Judith McPherson. "The world in my room is made out of it. Out of faith I stitched the clouds. Out of faith I cut the moon and stars." The world she speaks of is a diorama of the universe (including miniature planets, oceans, factories, rabbits and dragons) that she's built in her room out of orange peels, soda caps, twigs, pipe cleaners and other odds and bits. She calls this world the Land of Decoration after a passage in Ezekiel, and it's there that she plays the imaginary games that all children play: making snow fall, sailing hot-air balloons over the rooftops. But Judith isn't like other children. Her mother is dead, and she and her father belong to a strict religious sect that believes the Armageddon is just around the corner. School, naturally, is an endless loop of teasing, spitballs and other emotional torments until one particularly committed bully focuses on her—turning this book into a much larger, very adult story about violence and fear. In many ways, it's suspense—is Judith going to get hurt?—that keeps you tearing though the pages (be prepared for the complete and total devastation of your social life; once you pick up this novel, you will not be able to do anything until you finish). However, even if you were not afraid for her, you would want to spend the rest of your life listening to her speak. The differences that make her a pariah at school are the differences that make her a delight on the page. This isn't a child like the other children in books—say, the unbelievably smart ones who can lecture on astronomy and rare stamps. This is a regular old child—a loving, confused, tenderhearted little person, who is trying, like all of us, to make some sense of out of this life. Her mistakes along the way will sometimes make you laugh or wince—for example, when she believes God is talking to her—but they will also makes you gasp with delight because, as she says, "Faith is like imagination. It sees something where there is nothing, it takes a leap, and suddenly you are flying."
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