September 01, 2016

Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles

by Shari Green
Pajama Press
240 pp.
Ages 8-12
September 2016

I’m trying to have faith
trying to believe everything
will be okay.
But what if things don’t work out?
What if Jasper leaves,
Daniel can’t breathe,
my parents aren’t in love?
What if my family falls apart,
and I have to choose a parent
and not
the other?
Then what good
 is faith?
(pg. 145)
It must feel like the weight of the world is upon Bailey’s small eleven-year-old shoulders.  Being sent with her 8-year-old brother to stay with their hitherto-unknown grandmother, Nana Marie, at Felicity Bay on Arbutus Island on the west coast seems trepidatious enough but this strangeness is compounded by her concerns for her parents who are attending Marriage Repair camp.
My parents should be here.
We should be together
the four of us–
diamonds, clubs, spades, hearts,
Crazy Eights on a Sunday afternoon,
four quarters making a whole
like we always used to be
but might never be
(pg. 13)
Still Bailey has the joie de vivre to find adventures in everything from the pancakes in which she searches for the face of God–Aunt Debbie saw Tom Hanks’ face in her pancakes once– to a piece of driftwood that becomes a mermaid she christens “Our Lady of the Bay.”  And when the prophecy-delivering ice-cream man Jasper, a former preacher, foresees a stranger coming who will change everything, Bailey is hopeful that it’s Our Lady of the Bay who will bring about some good fortune.  With her parents’ marriage in need of repair, her friend and neighbour Daniel suffering with cystic fibrosis, a community divided and occasionally hostile, the compassionate Jasper being disgraced and driven out of town, and the church’s chalice missing, Bailey and Felicity Bay need a miracle or two.

But, even with these uncertainties and burdens, don’t ever think of Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles as anything but a story, told magnificently in verse form, of hope and courage and trust in the universe.  Good and bad may ebb and flow like the tides but that’s just the nature of  things.  In the end, it is what it is, and Bailey accepts it to be so.  Nonetheless it doesn’t stop her from making an all-out effort to help, whether it be her parents, Jasper, or a beached dolphin, and try to turn the tides of adversity.

Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles is Shari Green’s debut novel but it is an accomplished story in form and content worthy of a seasoned writer.  If you’ve enjoyed reviews on CanLit for LittleCanadians, you know that I am fond of novels in verse, but I fully comprehend the titanic challenge of writing one well.  Balancing structure with plot is complicated.  Yet Shari Green dives right in, creating characters and circumstances that effortlessly carry the reader from beginning to end on waves of sentiments, some fearful, most benevolent, all heartfelt.  Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles is in itself a miracle of a free verse of
of significance,
ordinary things
that turned out to be
” (pg. 232)

1 comment: