Review: Eleanor by Jason Gurley
Published by Crown on January 12th 2016
Eleanor and Esmerelda are identical twins with a secret language all their own, inseparable until a terrible accident claims Esme’s life. Eleanor’s family is left in tatters: her mother retreats inward, seeking comfort in bottles; her father reluctantly abandons ship. Eleanor is forced to grow up more quickly than a child should, and becomes the target of her mother’s growing rage. Years pass, and Eleanor’s painful reality begins to unravel in strange ways. The first time it happens, she walks through a school doorway, and finds herself in a cornfield, beneath wide blue skies. When she stumbles back into her own world, time has flown by without her. Again and again, against her will, she falls out of her world and into other, stranger ones, leaving behind empty rooms and worried loved ones. One fateful day, Eleanor leaps from a cliff and is torn from her world altogether. She meets a mysterious stranger, Mea, who reveals to Eleanor the weight of her family’s loss. To save her broken parents, and rescue herself, Eleanor must learn how deep the well of her mother’s grief and her father’s heartbreak truly goes. Esmerelda’s death was not the only tragic loss in her family’s fragmented history, and unless Eleanor can master her strange new abilities, it may not be the last.
Eleanor is an emotional journey of a book, a journey that takes you to some dark and uncomfortable places. But don’t let that scare you away, because the author did an amazing job balancing the darker parts. It was actually a touching and magical story that happened to have some sad, tragic and painful elements. Eleanor and Esmerelda were inseparable twins until a tragic accident kills Esmerelda, leaving Eleanor’s life forever altered and inevitably darker than the one she remembers from before, back when her sister was alive and at her side. It is a story about hindsight, dreams, letting go and moving forward. It is a story of loss and recovery. It is a story that really packs a lot in its pages. It may not have taken me very long to read (maybe 2 days), but it is a story that will stick with me. While this book is undeniably emotional, it was not as depressing of a read as I had anticipated, there felt to be more to it than just heartache. But definitely be prepared for some serious feels.
The structure of Eleanor does contain time jumps, but they are easy to navigate and help piece together Eleanor’s life as well as her mother’s and grandmother’s as the overall story crosses generations. The pacing was also very good. There is much of the plot, and the parts of this book that make it magical realism that I think are left better for the reader to discover for themselves, so I apologize if the review feels light on details. I just feel most of the interesting and important details are much better left unsaid so that you can experience them through the authors words.
Eleanor’s life after the death of her sister is not a happy one. Her mother disassociates, and turns to drink. Her father is largely absent. She is left trying to care not just for herself, but to keep her mother from destroying herself. There was much in this book that just felt real and raw, told in prose that was simply eloquent. The story also explores the mysterious disappearance of Eleanor’s grandmother. The characters and their relationships were expertly done. The story really examined how relationships are impacted by tragedy, straining characters to find their own ways to cope and not knowing how (or maybe not thinking about how) to best support each other.
Overall, this was a very rememberable, emotional story that I am happy to have experienced. It is one of those books that I enjoy thinking about long after the final pages have been read.
Review originally posted on The Speculative Herald