Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Words or Deeds: Eli the Good

How do you say "I love you"?  Just by talking or by cherishing someone with your actions? I'm a strong believer in actions -- filling my kids' bureaus with clean laundry, coming up with (cooked) food for them, dragging them from Plants vs Zombies and forcing them to read with me, that's how I tell them I love them. Oh, I'll throw words at them fairly often; all the parenting books tell me to.  But I don't think words mean much compared to actions, as I tell my youngest when he whispers sweet nothings to the cat complaining about an empty food bowl.

But I acknowledge that some people need words.  Silas House's Eli the Good has a character who only believes in words, who needs words so much that he sneaks about eavesdropping at every opportunity and plots to steal his parents letters so he can see words they sent to each other before he was born. The book covers Eli's tenth summer, the summer of the bicentennial, and the people he loves most are changing about him in ways he doesn't always comprehend.  He wants to be good, which is often harder than being great, but finds himself often coming up shorter than his dreams yet still managing to keep his connections to his family and therefore to himself.

The book keeps its distance from me, even when describing family traumas such as the bitter fights between his sister and his mother, or his father and his aunt, because the story is filtered through the adult Eli's memories of that summer.  But the intensity of the feelings shine through, from the horror of the Vietnam war memories to the moment when Eli truly believes in his mother's love for him (because she tells him; words always speak louder than actions for Eli).  B

Thanks to Random House and LibraryThing Early Reviewers for sending me this book.

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