Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Down to Earth: Grounded by Kate Klise

I knew I should've cried, but I couldn't. I didn't feel sad. That's the other thing about funerals: sometimes you don't feel sad. You don't feel anything at all other than a sense of floating above yourself, and looking down on the scene, thinking: That's not really me; that's not really them.

Daralynn knows she should be dead, would've been dead, if her mom had not grounded her for fishing at Doc Lake without permission. Her pilot dad, big brother, and little sister went off for a fun flight around the countryside while she sulked on the porch, and they all died in an meaningless crash.

Now there's just Daralyn, her angry, dry-eyed mother, and her increasingly senile grandmother Mamaw, who adopts and cares for all the dolls kindly neighbors gave Dara after the funeral, the care that her mother is now incapable of offering her.

I began to think of my life as a time line. Before the Crash was B.C.. After the Deaths was A.D.

In my B.C. life my mother didn't have a job. Now in the A.D. era, Mother was going to be a hair stylist for dead people.

For most of my life B.C., I'd been part of a family of five. Now we were a family of two--Mother and me, plus Mamaw next door.

In the tiny town of Digginsville, Missouri, population 402, there aren't many jobs for a young widow, and although taking a job styling client's hair for the local undertaker seems a strange job for the recently bereaved, in her matter-of-fact way Daralyn accepts her mom's new job and even goes along to learn the hairdressing trade, setting up her own styling chair for the kids in town and inadvertently creating "La Frenchie," a local haircut sensation. when she mistakes a little girl for a boy and gives her a Marlon Brando do.

Despite her mother's disapproval, Daralynn finds support from her flamboyant Aunt Josie, and things are beginning to look up in Digginsville. Dara is even heartened when she learns that what she takes to be a fancy ice-cream parlor is soon to open there Then she discovers to her mortification that a crematorium is not a sweet shop, but major competition for her mother's employer. To make matters even more complicated, the proposed proprietor of Clem's Crematorium turns out to be a devastatingly handsome fast talker who sweet-talks Aunt Josie out of her nest egg as backing and sweeps her off her feet with a proposal of marriage.

But Daralynn, a girl with both feet on the ground, intuits that there's something underhanded about Clem and throws all her eleven-year-old detective skills into sleuthing out the truth behind the new venture. What she discovers sets even the sensible Dara back on her heels, and when she learns that the much-touted cremation equipment which Josie paid for has never been delivered to Clem's enterprise, she realizes that she has to find out what the shyster is actually doing with those bodies he's being paid to cremate.

In a midnight confrontation at Doc Lake, Dara nails the murderous malefactor and proves herself a worthy heroine in Kate Klise's latest novel, appropriately titled Grounded (Feiwel & Friends, 2010). Klise is known for her quirky, yet poignant characters, and the aptly named Digginsville denizens are no exception, as salty as tears and as grounded in the realities of life as a cemetery marker. Klise brings her characters to a realization of the beauty of living life and valuing each other while they can in a story that is both an absorbing mystery adventure and a lesson for the soul.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home