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) Read an excerpt of The Land of Decoration.