Sunday, February 17, 2013

Safekeeping Book Review

Title: Safekeeping
Author: Karen Hesse
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1250011343

304 pp.

ARC provided via publisher

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse is a bit of an odd duck. It's a quiet book, an interior journey as much as it is a physical one.

It's the story of Radley, a young woman who was volunteering at an orphanage in Haiti when America implodes in civil unrest. She rushes home to Vermont, or at least tries to, but finds that new security measures means she own her own, on foot, trying not to be noticed by police.

When she gets home, her parents have disappeared. She decides to hoof it to Canada, where many Americans are seeking asylum. Along the way she meets a girl with a dog and a secret.

The book is interspersed with black and white photographs that Radley's mother supposedly took. They are stark, lonely photos of found objects and isolated landscapes.

The story is really Radley's journey as a pampered, protected girl who first learns in Haiti what hunger and sorrow is. But there she was merely an observer. Back in America, she learns first-hand what it means to survive and what it means to be truly alone.

The blurb on the book may make it sound like a dystopia, but anyone expecting the heart-pounding action of the The Hunger Games or the fight the power resistance of Delirium will be disappointed. Safekeeping is not a dystopia. It is a long trek of being left with your thoughts when you're walking in the rain and you have miles to go.

I think the book is more of an experiment rather than a cohesive narrative. The photographs added nothing to the story for me. There is a character that's introduced near the end that's too deus ex machina and whose actions (or lack of action) make no sense.

But I admire Karen Hesse for trying something different, even though it wasn't entirely successful for me. I'd recommend Safekeeping to die-hard Karen Hesse fans.

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