My library had a warehouse sale recently, and I came home with ten new books (for $12.50! I love my library.) It was a glorious sale. There are few things better in book buying, for me, then stumbling across a J. M. Barrie book that isn’t about Peter Pan and looks like it’s from 1900 (although I can’t find a publishing date on it!) and then realizing that the librarians will let me take this treasure home to keep for a mere two dollars. Lovely. But almost as good is finding a book I’ve been meaning to get around to buying for, I don’t know, three years, and that one can go home right now for only a buck.
That book I’d been meaning to buy was A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt. I started reading it the same day I bought it. I really don’t know why I took this long to purchase it (except possibly because brick-and-mortar bookstores never had it when I looked, and I was wary of buying on Amazon because I didn’t want to inadvertantly end up with a particular edition I knew I didn’t like).
A Solitary Blue is a wonderful, beautiful book. I love the way Voigt writes about emotions. A friend who went to the sale with me asked what the book was about, and I flailed a bit trying to answer. I had read it before, that wasn’t the issue, but it’s much more a character-development book than a plot-driven one.
Here goes a best-attempt at “what it’s about.” Jeff’s mother, Melody, is beautiful and charming and fascinating–and she walked out when Jeff was seven years old. As Jeff grows up, we watch the development of his relationship with his father, a very reserved college professor, and with Melody as she moves unexpectedly in and out of his life.
It’s Jeff’s thoughts and feelings that make me love this book. When he’s small, his mother is the center of his world. Voigt writes wonderful descriptions about how Jeff feels around her.
“Jeff watched and listened, basking in his own feelings: of being with his own mother, who wrapped her love around him; of being–strange as it seemed–home, where he was welcome; of waking up to a world where his help was needed to right what was wrong; of lying on soft grass under trees hundreds of years old beside walls that his ancestors had built; of being logy with the perfumed heat of the day.”
When Jeff gets older, he sees through Melody’s charm to realize how irresponsible and self-absorbed she really is–and the descriptions of how he feels in his disappointment and betrayal are beautiful too.
“He felt so bad–sorry for himself, and angry at himself for losing her–and helpless. He didn’t know what he should have done, what he could have done. He felt as if he had been broken into thousands of little pieces. Broken and then dropped into some dark place. Some dark place where he was always going to stay.”
I think the reader sees through Melody sooner than Jeff does, so we can see the tragedy coming. But, despite some sad parts, it’s an ultimately positive story, as Jeff learns and grows and comes out of both the sun of Melody’s approval, and the darkness of her disregard.
The title refers to a blue heron, a bird Jeff sees alone on an island one day, and which becomes symbolic for Jeff himself, and for a few other characters too.
A Solitary Blue is part of a larger series, but I think it could stand alone. The larger series is about the Tillerman family and their friends, and the Tillermans have only a supporting role in this one. I recommend the rest of the series too, but this one is my favorite.
Author’s site: http://cynthiavoigt.com/