Friday, December 25, 2009

Saving Cicadas, by Nicole Seitz (Thomas Nelson)


(Click cover for more information)

I want to describe Saving Cicadas as deceptively imaginative, but ‘deceptive’ could cast a negative shade over the story and I don’t mean it in any negative way. Still, it’s true, so I’m sticking with it.

Saving Cicadas is deceptively imaginative.

Nicole Seitz has woven a subtly explosive tale of redemption, hope and fantastical intrigue set in the flatlands of the South. It seemed harmless enough. When the theme began to emerge from the plot, I sat back, comfortable in my certainty with where the tale was going. I assumed the journey would be the focus as the destination was obvious. And then something happened. I straightened in my chair, narrowed my eyes, and read on. After a couple more chapters, all became clear again, and, lulled into a second brief period of smug satisfaction, I turned the page—and stepped right into another curve ball. Then came a fast ball. Then a slider. My gosh, Nicole! What are you doing here? What she was doing was incredible.

Delivered in the first-person perspective mostly through the eyes of 8½ year-old Janie Doe Macy (who might not be who she thinks she is), and Grandma Mona (who might not be who you think she is), Saving Cicadas both celebrates and struggles with the miracle of life—all life; from bugs, to roses, to children, and a whole lot in between. But there's more to it than that. The true delight of the first-person voice is experiencing the story through the eyes of a character directly involved in it. If done well, it creates the effect of involving you in it, too. Nicole captures Janie’s mind and vernacular so well, you don’t experience the story with Janie, you become Janie. If you don’t, either you’ve never been eight years old, or you have no pulse.

Saving Cicadas is a journey of discovery, but you won’t really know where it’s leading until Ms. Seitz decides it’s okay for you to know. She sets you up with a straightforward thematic thrust, putting you comfortably off guard, then keeps you off balance with simplistically complex plot. Multi-dimensional characters challenge your inclination to develop first impressions and stick with them for any meaningful length of time. Her colorful writing voice paints a warm and unpretentious backdrop—which is ‘deceptive’ in its own right. Then, when you least expect it, the story picks up speed and passes the point of safe ejection before you have a chance to react. So, get yourself two cups of tea and unplug the telephone, ‘cuz you’re not going anywhere for awhile.

I guess you’ve probably noticed that I enjoyed this book. Please get it. If, when you’ve finished it, you don’t agree with this review, I’ll refund you the cover price. Seriously.

One last bit of advice: Don’t ever sit down at a poker table with Nicole Seitz. You haven’t got a chance.

(Disclaimer: Saving Cicadas was provided free of charge by Thomas Nelson for review; however, my comments would have been no different had I spent twice the cover price.)

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