The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen
Ten-year-old Judith’s life is no ordinary existence for a young girl. When not at school, her spare time is filled with reading from the Bible, door knocking to warn people of the forthcoming Armageddon, creating a city out of rubbish and talking to God. Faith has been the backbone of her life and she has never known any different. She keeps quiet, cooks and spreads the word of God, all to keep her father happy.
Due to her unusual existence, her school life is troubled and one bully, in particular, makes her life a misery. One night, while she is playing with her city made of rubbish, she conjures up ways she can avoid having to go to school the next day and therefore avoid the unwelcome attention of her bully. At last, it comes to her, snow. She’s compelled to cover her homemade city in cotton, feathers and glue to make it appear as a winter wonderland and collapses into a deep sleep. The next day she awakes to find a blanket of snow smothering her town. Was it a coincidence or did she perform a miracle?
She decides she needs to test her new gift, creates a model of her neighbours lost cat and soon, the beloved feline returns home. Now she is certain of her gift. Although her confidence grows, the bullying continues to worsen and when her father is labelled a ‘scab’ for continuing to work during a union strike, attacks start on their home. Does Judith really have the ability to perform miracles or has her actions simply antagonised an already stressful situation?
This book is utterly unique. I have never read anything like it before and even though I was wary of a book based on religion, I adored it. There were moments where I found it quite uncomfortable to read, as you feel the young girl is so repressed and controlled in a world filled with adults, that you don’t feel she is having a chance to enjoy being young. You can’t help but feel sorry for a girl whose dreams go as far as a Ferris wheel and fish and chips. Her father is also a very evocative character as although his actions throughout the novel are logical and understandable, his lack of emotion for his daughter is utterly infuriating.
With philosophical undertones, moments of surrealism and expertly crafted characters this book is equally thought-provoking as it is enjoyable. Be prepared to utterly fall for this little girl and mentally cheer her on until the last chapter where you’ll be thinking… “is she really going to go through with it?”
This is an excellent debut and great addition to the Waterstones 11 picks this year. I will definitely be looking out for more from Grace McCleen in the future.
Buy The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen