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Lucy the Giant (thoughts)

June 26, 2009

Lucy the GiantI put Lucy the Giant by Sherri Smith on hold at the library during my ‘whim phase.’ It sounded interesting at Black Eyed Susan’s Library Loot (now y’all know the real reason I started/host LL! So I can feed my raging book addiction!), and I couldn’t recall reading a book set in Alaska (I prefer civilisation and four seasons, thank you). It sat in my ‘Library Fiction’ pile for about a week, since I’m always nervous a touch about new authors, until I was in the right mood for it.

And then I ended up reading it in one sitting. And crying a little. (I’m a total cry baby, though…tons of books and movies will make me tear up. Even some of my niece’s books have done it.)

Lucy is fifteen years old and lives in Sitka, Alaska. Her mother was a Native American (I already returned the book! eek! So I can’t check the tribe.), but she left a long time ago. Her father is a drunk, who Lucy tries to avoid as much as possible. Oh, and she’s over six feet tall, which makes high school even more fun. Pretty early in the book, something happens which makes Lucy snap, and through a series of random events, she ends up working on a crabbing boat out in Kodiak as the adult Barbara. (ETA: Sorry, apparently this wasn’t very clear. When she pretends to be an adult, she says her name is Barbara.) Slowly, she begins to make open up to the people she meets there. And in the dangerous Bering Strait, she’ll need all of her giant frame to make it.

That’s my plot summary, but this book is much more than plot. It’s really about the characters. Lucy narrates the book, and from page one, she felt so real. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning:

I stopped marking the inches on my doorjamb when I passed six feet. I haven’t grown much since then, but enough to make getting out of bed almost impossible. My room is so small I can’t even really stretch my legs in it.
I could have a bigger room if I wanted-one that fits me, more or less. But that would mean being closer to wherever my dad is. And that could make any room seem small. It doesn’t help to be my size when someone wants to ignore you.

And her friends along the way, from the stray dog she meets to Sheila, a tiny high schooler who is determined to be her friend to the crew on the crabbing boat, I wanted to know them all too.

I enjoyed the parts where she’s on the crabbing boat, not because I care particularly about crabbers (I’m a happy vegetarian), but because I love nautical books, and the passages really evoke the feel of being out on the sea. Smith has that ability to bring a place to life with just a sparse description, and throughout I felt like I could see where Lucy was. Since I’ve never been to Alaska, it was definitely part of the book’s appeal to me!

This isn’t a perfect book, or a book that demands to be reread for all of its nuances. But it is a wonderful, touching YA read. The writing wasn’t fancy, but it was strong and distinctive. This was Smith’s debut, which feels right, and I’ve already put her latest book, Flygirl, on hold (this might have something to do with how much I loved seeing Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart in Night at the Museum: the Smithsonian). I’d recommend this one to those who enjoy YA that feels like YA (coming of age, accepting responsibility, beginning to love yourself, making a new family when your biological one doesn't cut it, etc.), anyone curious about Alaska, and those who prefer characters and relationships over plot. It was a charming way to spend a couple of hours, and I’m glad that I read it!

Have you read any books set in Alaska or northern Canada? Did you enjoy them?

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. June 26, 2009 4:54 pm

    Great review! I might have to check it out.
    I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on Oscar Wao. I hope I didn’t scare you too much!

  2. June 26, 2009 5:24 pm

    Your review is very good. It seems like one is so much more likely to cry over YA books – either when they’re sad, or touching, or even when they’re happy! I wonder why that is!

  3. June 26, 2009 6:08 pm

    Great review. The book is on our shelf but I haven’t read it yet. I am reading Mare’s War about the Women’s Army Corp. Loving it. If you can, do pick it up. It’s by Tanita S. Davis, a very cool woman and talented writer.

  4. June 26, 2009 6:32 pm

    This does sound interesting. I’ve got to admit, though, that I usually steer clear of stuff set in the north. I’m a visual reader, and I don’t find the tundra and its related environs too awe-inspiring. I don’t really want to picture them in my head as I read. Plus, there’s all that cold seat to contend with… *shudder*

    • June 26, 2009 6:34 pm

      Eep! I meant sea, not seat. That’s what I get for pressing “post comment” without proofreading.

  5. June 26, 2009 7:22 pm

    I’m such a crybaby, too, when it comes to books. In fact, I just cried with my last read, which was Carol Shields’s Larry’s Party. :)

  6. June 26, 2009 7:31 pm

    Writing to you as a 6’5″ tall man who never played basketball I can tell you that height is a blessing that is also a burden for all of us tall people men and women. People always told me I should play basketball because I am so tall, and it always wanted to say “You should play miniature golf because you are so short.”

    Seemed like the same logic to me.

    My favorite far north book is Smilla’s Sense of Snow which takes place in Denmark and Greenland. I highly recommend it if you like mysteries.

  7. June 26, 2009 7:49 pm

    I think I’d really like this book. One I really loved set in the north was Ordinary Wolves- but I might have mentioned it to you before? And if you like nautical books you ought to try Greenlaw’s The Hungry Ocean- it’s great.

  8. June 26, 2009 8:20 pm

    As the adult Barbara? I’ve reread that several times and I still don’t get it.

    The only book I can remember that was set in the North was The Call of the Wild. I really should read that one again.

  9. June 26, 2009 9:38 pm

    Through Black Spruce, by Joseph Boyden. I don’t know how far north it’s set, but it certainly sounded cold. :-D

  10. June 27, 2009 7:17 am

    Another great review, Eva!

    And if the book Softdrink mentioned is the one I’m thinking of, it’s set around the tip of James Bay. Not sure if you’d consider it northern Canada, but there aren’t any roads to get you there…you have to go by train or smallish plane. Rich and I went there (Moosonee/Moose Factory) as a 10 year anniversary present to ourselves. So much fun!!! I’ve been wanting to read that book since I first heard of it. Of course, now that I babbled away here, I’ll probably find out this wasn’t even the book I was thinking of. ;)

  11. June 27, 2009 9:18 am

    Thanks for the review – this sounds like an interesting book… but I have a question: did you really mean to say that you think Alaska isn’t civilized?

    I’m not crazy about reading about snow and cold – I live that climate nine months out of the year during some years but this one does sound like something I’d enjoy.

    cjh

  12. June 27, 2009 6:57 pm

    Linda, thanks! You didn’t scare me too much; I’ve read more positive reviews too. :)

    Rhapsody, thank you! I suppose I am more likely to cry over YA books!

    Susan, Mare’s War sounds interesting!

    Memory, hehe; I just go those awesome images from Discovery Earth in my head. :D

    Claire, glad I’m not the only cry baby! :)

    CB, I’m very happy being short (5’3″), so I totally believe you. I think you should definitely use the miniature golf come back. :) Thanks for the rec! I love mysteries!

    Jeane, I don’t think I’ve heard of either of those books before; thanks!

    Janet, as I e-mailed you and edited the post, she says her name is Barbara when she’s passing for an adult. :) I hated Call of the Wild when I read it; I was around 10 and it was just too violent.

    Softdrink, thanks for the rec!

    Debi, I consider pretty much all of Canada north! hehe Except PEI. Sounds like a great anniversary gift. :D

    CJ, there’s a difference between civilisation and civilised! I mean I prefer big cities, with stores and restaurants and lots of people. :)

    • June 29, 2009 2:02 pm

      I’m glad I asked, then. I’m the exact opposite – I hate big cities and shopping in general but I can admit that there are a few things about big cities I’d like to be closer to. I am not, however, willing to give up my walks on the beach where I don’t see another person in exchange.

      cjh

  13. June 29, 2009 12:55 pm

    This looks interesting! I hope my library has it. I read The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon, which was set in Alaska. It was veerrrry interesting. I don’t know if it was good, but it was certainly interesting.

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