Sunday, July 08, 2007

Letting Her Hair Down: Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes

Sara Lewis Holmes' Ursula Nordstrom First Fiction Winner Letters from Rapunzel is not a book to judge by its cover. Despite its cover art, it is NOT one of the numerous "fractured fairy tales" which have flooded the market in the past few years.

The main character is a middle-school girl, Cadence Brogan, a bright but indifferent student, who adopts the persona of "Rapunzel" for herself to express her feelings of isolation. At school her social interaction consists of borrowing paper from a girl next to her in the hated after-school Homework Club and being teased by Andrew, a kid in her gifted class. At home Cadence feels a similar sense of alienation when her father is hospitalized with a clinical depression (C.D., as her overwhelmed mom cheerfully terms it) so profound that he cannot talk or write to her. "Evil Spell" is the term Cadence as "Rapunzel" gives to his mental illness.

To relieve her fear of being shut out of her parents' problems, Cadence begins writing letters, under the name "Rapunzel," to an address she finds in her father's desk. Assuming the recipient is her father's close friend, she asks him to explain her father's illness. Although she receives no response, Cadence continues to write, documenting her feelings and her search for the significance of the news clipping about an abandoned bridge which she also finds among her father's poems.

Revelation comes from her erstwhile enemy Andrew when he tells her that her father was hospitalized after an attempt to jump from the old bridge. Cadence cuts school and slips inside the fence around the derelict bridge to try to understand her father's suicide attempt, and her arrest forces her mother to open up communication with her. As she writes as "Rapunzel,"

But if you asked me would I do it again I would. I'd write my poem and I'd hear the truth about this bridge. I'd even write my letters to you all over again, even though you never write me back. Because otherwise, I'd just be a silly princess, waiting for rescue. I think that's what the Evil Spell does--it keeps you from seeing anything but the walls of your tower.

In Cadence/Rapunzel, Holmes has created a character with a fresh, funny, and probing voice, a real girl trying to live in the real world where "you can only understand your life backward, but you have to live it forward."



  • \this book was interesting

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:37 PM  

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