Sunday 17 June 2007

The Art of Salvage by Leona Theis

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPublished by Coteau Books

The Art of Salvage is one of those novels which haunts the reader. There are two main characters, in my view at least. Amber is a young woman with a lot on her mind. She suffers from mood disorders, she lost her best friend as a child, she discovered that her sister was in fact her mother, and the only two people she knew as parents, are deceased. Amber has so many questions, not only about her life and her birth parents, but also questions about herself. She seems often to resemble a shadow of a person, a ghost maybe, just barely existing and yet other times she is a force to be reckoned with, resembling a destructive tornado. She is a brilliantly written complex character.

The second main character, almost as complex, is Del. Del is Amber's birth mother though you would never really know it, from their dynamic. Del came across as a far more distant character, one you could never really reach out and touch, like you could with Amber. She is very closed off, almost fragile, and each of those qualities just leaps off the page when she makes an appearance. Del had become pregnant in 1974 and as was popular then, she went to a home for expectant mothers and tried to come to terms with giving away the child she was carrying. Del's mother decides that the baby should be raised as her own and Del, glad to be free of the decision, goes along with the plan.

The book has a layout of four parts. In part one of the book, we are introduced to the characters much later in life, after the death of the parents who raised them. Part two brings us the story of Del while part three is focussed on Amber. In part four, the final and to me, most dramatic section, we see them together once more as they try and come to terms with life and their choices.

This novel was gripping, exhilerating, crushing, devastating, hopeful, and intense. I found myself attached to both characters in the early pages as the author successfully grabs the attention of the reader and holds it, almost effortlessly until the very last page. I found the descriptive style to be excellent, especially when dealing with volatile or emotional scenes. The reader can almost hear the sounds of objects breaking, and in one especially memorable scene, cutting (self injury) is featured and the detail, though very brief, was chilling.

A great book and one that I will return to, time after time.

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