Pearl Weaver contains the best parts of Southern charm, drawing upon the story part of religious tales, and showing how those literary inheritances belong to all.
If Pearl could: she would edit her life to perfection. She would trim out the tears; she would bring back the dead. Hard turns teach her the true nature of our life stories, though, in Rachel Keener’s lovely, lilting bildungsroman, Pearl Weaver’s Epic Apology.
Pearl, the daughter of a proud Southern poet and the descendant of rebellious milltown lintheads, breathes stories—both from works of great fiction and from her family’s fabled past. She is a girl who lives with Jane Eyre and Persephone in her heart and who wonders what it is about velvet “that could make a girl so brave.” She is also desperate to write herself a beautiful life, free from the pain and cruel twists of the sort that claimed both of her parents.
Her faith in the magic that runs beneath lines, though, makes her something of an oddball among her contemporaries, and life is made no easier by her grandiose performances. When one display is taken too far, Pearl is forced to flee from home with her best friend, Katie, at her side. She’s certain that wonders await them, somewhere in the wilds of Alaska, where worms wind through ice and frozen creatures come back to life, but she is bound for a hard course in cold realities. Not every unhappy chapter can be rewritten.
Keener’s novel is L. M. Montgomery come South. It arrives in a swirl of lovely metaphors and breathtaking perspectives. Some of its events exist slightly beyond the realm of the probable, but its turns, fantastic or not, are always sweetly met.
Turns toward faith come as somewhat as a surprise—particularly within Pearl’s Southern mansion, where only the church part of tradition was pointedly not honored–but Keener handles her biblical turns deftly. Pearl Weaver contains the best parts of Southern charm, drawing upon the story part of religious tales, and showing how those literary inheritances belong to all—even to lintheads; even to thieves; even to those who cannot read, but who still find a way to breathe, and live, the Word.
Michelle Anne Schingler
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