The Canning Season by Polly Horvath
Back when I took a Children’s Literature course in college, my wonderful professor had a raffle every week, and one week, I won this copy of Polly Horvath’s The Canning Season. My prof had read Everything on a Waffle and loved it, and wanted to know how this book would be. Now that I’ve finally read it, I can tell her.
I’m still processing what I just finished reading. I’m not even really sure I understood everything. As I said in my Goodreads review, I feel like Polly Horvath wrote up a Mad Libs and then published it in this book. That’s how random and bizarre and thrown-together this book feels. Maybe writing about it will help me unpack it some more.
Ratchet Clark has had a rough life. Living with a neglectful and uncaring mother in a basement apartment in Pensacola, Florida, Ratchet is used to a patched-up and lonely life. So she is startled to find out that her mother is packing her up to send her off to Maine for the summer, to live with distant relatives, the ancient twins Tilly and Penpen. They are odd, unique, and completely offbeat. Plus, Ratchet has a defect on her shoulder, referred only as That Thing by herself and her mother. Slowly, the events of the summer help her bring her into herself and discover a life she never even thought she could have.
I’m coating this as well as I can, because this book is just random. Meals are had at random times, Tilly and Penpen are eccentric and crazy, and Ratchet sort of follows along with everything. There were some moments that reminded me of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, and I have this weird aversion to bad housekeeping in books. I think the family stories were interesting (and a little dark, especially when Tilly and Penpen discuss their mother’s suicide), but I’ve read better versions of those in other books. Also, this is not a children’s book for children. If you like children’s and YA fiction that is dark (along the veins of Lemony Snicket), then you might like this better than I did. But that’s not my style.