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#40 – Goody Bledsoe

August 14, 2007

am i getting too old for fantasy? should i bite my lip and settle down?Sometime last term, I heard that Heather Doherty, one of the librarians at my school, had had a novel published.  I made a note to check it out, but unfortunately only got to it now.  You know how great it is when you read the writing of somebody you know, or hear their music, or see their artwork, or whatever, and realize that you could appreciate it even if you didn’t know the person?  That’s absolutely the case here.  Goody Bledsoe really drew me in, and it’s an extremely impressive debut novel.  That’s not to say that I enjoyed reading it, though.  I enjoyed Goody Bledsoe to the extent that I enjoyed The Road; that is, I found them both to be very compelling and moving, but depressing from beginning to end.  Both books are about persisting in the face of hopelessness, and even though the relative hopelessness in the two stories could not be more different, the overall effect is the same.

The titular Goody Bledsoe’s story begins in 1936, when she and her 8 siblings are being sent to live with other families in preparation for their mothers’ death.  Goody, at age 10, winds up an unwanted addition to her aunt’s household, an undesirable catch who came with the baby brother her aunt actually wanted.  Things just get worse from there on out.  She’s forced to move from Boston to Fredericton Junction, New Brunswick, which in 1936 (or, frankly, today) is the same thing as travelling back in time.  Already mature for her age, Goody has to become a grown woman overnight to look after herself.

To be truthful, this synopsis didn’t appeal to me too much at the beginning: it sounded suspiciously like a dreaded “coming-of-age” story, and Goody Bledsoe actually does get a little bit Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret in parts.  But that’s really not an accurate depiction of the book as a whole.  The writing is much better than would be needed to just tell that story.  Doherty has some great phrases and ideas thrown in here; in one passage I particularly liked, Goody says that death comes in threes in Fredericton Junction because it’s such a small town “that Death Himself took the time to get off the train here only once in a while, but bagged three of us while he was at it, so he’d not have to bother coming back for a bit.”  Nice.

I started Goody Bledsoe expecting it to be not my style of book, but pretty impressive regardless because it was written by someone I know.  I ended up being completely drawn in by a great story about how the entire world can feel like it’s against us, and how people can get by while settling for “good enough”.  It’s sad and powerful, and it’s well worth reading.

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