Friday, April 18, 2008

Breath by Donna Jo Napoli

by Donna Jo Napoli

Beautifully researched as always (I'm always learning something new every time I pick up a book by Napoli; in this case, a lot about cystic fibrosis, medieval customs and beliefs in Germany, the Crusades, and early accidental experimentation with LSD (ergot poisoning)), and wonderfully adapted, as always. (Meaning, of course, that this is yet another adaptation from a fairy tale: this is not the story of the Pied Piper, but the story of the crippled boy who got left behind when he led the children away.)

And the emotional atmosphere she sets: the struggle for life, love, sanity for individual characters—I can't think of a word strong enough to describe the bright emotional pain she captures so well.... This one is painful, though. The ending is open: at the end, the reader only knows that Salz has been left behind, and what he is planning to do next, but not what actually happens to him, and imagination can't help but to take the reader to the next plausible step for him—which may be very bleak if you tend toward realistic endings—or mildly hopeful if you are optimistic. But no matter what, it's a sad story. And a beautiful one. And well worth the read.

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