The Land Of Decoration
- Publication Date:
- 01 March 2012
- Modern & Contemporary
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Ten-year-old Judith McPherson (her given name hints at her fierce mythic power) has a secret: God speaks to her. Loudly. The rigid yet salvific God of the sect that rules the McPherson family's lives turns out to be considerably more unpredictable when chatting with young Judith, and Judith is learning that using "divine" power has consequences that no ten-year-old could predict. Grace McCleen's debut novel is fascinating, disturbing, funny, troubling. Does God really talk to Judith, or have the traumas of her life (the death of her mother, her distant, angry father, the endless bullying she endures at school) made her crazy? Is she finally moving from utter impotence to near-omnipotence, or have the events of her life finally slid completely out of control? McCleen is deft at feeding only scraps of the answers, and leaving the reader to ponder all the big questions. There's tragedy here, and comedy, and ultimately a lot of thought about the nature of God, faith, humanity, and the way life requires us to act without having a clue that we may be setting off an avalanche of unforeseen consequences. I thought about Judith's story for days after I finished reading it, and that is exactly how I like stories to go. More, please, Grace McCleen.Thanks to the LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program for my copy of The Land of Decoration!
Judith McPherson is the ten-year-old voice of the story. Clever, sweet-intentioned most of the time, albeit confused and displaying some questionable behavior, she believes her father doesn’t love her.Judith has created a secret miniature world in her bedroom, made from the discarded scraps of everyday life. A quiet girl without friends her own age, she lives through the landscape and citizens of her handmade world.Judith’s life is made miserable and difficult by a school bully by the name of Neil Lewis.Her only solace in life is found in her relationship with God. Although the religion is never named in the book, it seems evident to me that the fictional religion is based on that of Jehovah’s Witnesses or something very similar.Making them Witnesses-like is an effective way to reinforce that Judith is in her own world, as Witnesses believe that they are “no part of this world” and keep themselves apart from the rest of society in their personal lives. This helped to strengthen the image of Judith as being a part of her handmade “Land of Decoration” in her bedroom more so than the world outside her door.Throughout the story, you are never quite sure whether Judith is delusional, or whether her life is full of coincidence. What is real, and what is in her head? But you continually want to take her in your arms and offer her solace.There is some vulgarity and crudity, but it is by no means gratuitous. It is kind of hard to have low-life bullies without it.My final word: I was in love with this book and little Judith McPherson before I finished page 1! As the story went on, I found that there were moments that inspired an almost visceral response. You find yourself thinking "no, no, no!" You find yourself pulling for this confused little girl at odds with herself and the world, trying to find balance with her otherwise rocky existence. Probably about three-quarters of the way through my love affair faded slightly, but I found it picked up again before long, and in the end I loved this story. I loved Judith.
Judith McPherson is 10 years old, living with her father in a small town in England, when she becomes the target of a school bully, Neil Lewis. Judith is different from her peers, mainly due to her religious upbringing, which centers on an impending Armageddon. To escape the loneliness, Judith constructs her own version of The Land of Decoration - a representation of what the world will look like after Armageddon.As Judith deals with Neil, she becomes inspired by the words of a guest speaker at her church. He talks at length about having faith in God and the power of miracles. That evening, as she dreads the next school day, she contemplates the Brother Michael’s words. Judith decides to wish for snow, and she sets out to make fake snow on her Land of Decoration, praying the whole time. As she prays, she begins to hear a voice, pushing her to pray more. When she wakes up the next morning, her town is covered in snow.Judith, believing that she performed a miracle, now sets her sights on Neil. However, as bad things happen, Judith realizes that power can lead to destruction. Eventually her actions begin to affect her father, and as he begins to lose faith in God, Judith's love for her father and God are put to the ultimate test.<em>The Land of Decoration</em> is a fast-paced, moving novel that sucks you in from the first word. Judith is a believable and sympathetic character, and her father is equally compelling. Seeing the world through Judith's eyes reminds you of how innocent and vulnerable children are.I am not a believer in Armageddon, so I wasn't sure if I would like this novel. I am so glad I read it, despite my reservations, because <em>The Land of Decoration</em> is so much more than a novel about Armageddon. It’s a story of faith, parental love and doing the right thing – themes that can resonate with any reader, despite your religious persuasion.
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)
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