CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 38. . . . June 1, 2018
Imagine a world where houses have souls and can heal (that is, repair) themselves; where a person's hair has a will and power of its own to help or hinder; and where, if you are persevering enough, you may be able to travel to Yesterday and change tomorrow. The emphasis here is on the "may"!
Even with all the fantastical elements of Hungrig, many of which Cecelia's teacher doesn't believe in, though the students all know them to be true, some things remain constant. Within families, parents still love their children unconditionally, even though they may not seem to, siblings still fight, tell tales on one another, and love/hate each other in almost equal measure. And promises are made in good faith and then forgotten. Also accidents happen, even fatal accidents, and, when they do, a cycle of guilt and blame is set up that is very hard to change or dispell.
This is the world where we find ourselves, in a house named Widdendream, with the family of Dahls: Aubergine and Mazarine (parents) and Cecilia (11) and Celadon (9). Unfortunately, it is now "the late Celadon" ever since that night six weeks before when he lost his balance at the top of the stairs and fell to his death. The resulting mix of grief, blame, and guilt sends Mazarine to the Land of Yesterday to try to find him, and her departure, plus the house’s own feelings of guilty responsibility, turns their loving house into a monster dwelling bent on revenge. It imprisons Aubergine, torturing him for his part in Mazarine's departure, all the while goading Cecelia into trying to bring her back.
That Cecelia accepts the challenge and rises to it is the story here in all its fantastic elements. The Land of Yesterday is a dark book. As the blurb on the back says, it will appeal to readers who liked “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, though it lacks the vocabulary-expanding definitions and the disasterous ending(s) of those books. I preferred it, actually. Cecelia, with her midnight-blue hair, some help from a few people (using the term loosely) she meets along the way, and inspiration from her Joan of Arc action figure, conquers her fears, overcomes difficulties including apparently turning into a paper Dahl, and finds her mother. And her brother? Well, that's for me to know and you to find out, as they say.
Mary Thomas lives half the year in Winnipeg, MB, and half elsewhere. Travel as Cecilia did in an Intergalactic Taxi balloon manned by Astronautic Gnomes has real appeal, especially if it is faster than Air Canada, though she would rather stay in Now than go to Yesterday.