If it wasn't for Elizabeth Reeder, I never would have read To Kill a Mockingbird. This much is actual fact about my life. Elizabeth was one of the tutors on my MLitt in Creative Writing, and the book was part of our course. For that, an introduction to Carson McCullers, and some interesting exercises, I'm very grateful.
I'm happy, too, for reading Ramshackle (a great title for a debut novel!). Fifteen year old Roe wakes up one morning to discover that her father is gone. When he doesn't come home that night, she tells her aunt Linden who reassures Roe that it's the kind of thing her father does, and that he'll eventually come back. The novel takes place over the space of a week or so, and follows Roe as she attempts to cope with her father's disappearance.
Elizabeth is a woman who practices what she preaches; her writing is both muscular and lyrical. There's a graceful movement to the writing in Ramshackle, while always pulsing with real life. As if being a teenager isn't difficult enough (flunking at history, working out feelings for a boyfriend, best friend with family problems, ), Roe has to piece her life together and figure out who she is, without the help of her father.
The characters are beautifully drawn, especially father Peter: despite being physically absent through most of the novel, he's very much a presence. In Chicago. I'm not sure how many, if any, books I've read that have been based in Chicago, but it's now added on my list of places to visit. Reeder obviously knows and loves the place well, and it provides a fantastic backdrop for the novel.
Ramshackle is a gorgeous debut, tenderly written; a bittersweet story and a very moving read.