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Friday, November 5, 2010

The Bride's Farewell, written by Meg Rosoff. Random House, 2009. $14.95 ages 14 and up

"No one in the parish was what
you might call well-off, and by the
time Pell turned ten she and Lou
had an expertise in stretching ends
past straining point in an ever-hopeful
and ever-futile attempt to make them
meet. It was a skill practiced by every
child in Nomansland, and each learned
it from its mam who had, of course,
learned the same way."

In this story of journeys we follow Pell as she runs away on the eve of a marriage of convenience for family and great distress for the bride. She finds she cannot follow through with the plans made to marry Birdie, the blacksmith's son. She takes her horse Jack, and the meager stash of coins that was to be her dowry and sets out, only to be be joined by her adopted brother, Bean. He is mute, and has a special place in her heart. He is observant and seems to understand much about Pell that she might not even know about herself. She cannot leave him. They journey together to the fair at Salisbury in hopes of finding employment at the horse market. Pell has an affinity for horses that is quite admirable, and mysterious.

Of course, nothing happens as she had hoped. There is no work. She finds a safe harbor with a gypsy family
for a time. Duped by a  horse trader, Pell returns to the spot where she left Bean and Jack to wait for her, only to find them gone. In alternating views, we watch Bean in the wretched conditions that become his life, and Pell as she searches in vain for her brother and the life she thinks she wants. Along the way she is accompanied by a gypsy dog, Dicken. He is a character in his own right, and brings some peace to the abject misery that befalls Pell.

The characters are a wonder, the writing is so elegant and lovely, while telling a heartbreaking and bleak story. As she seeks her place in the world, she meets people who can and cannot be trusted. When she returns home she finds that things are worse than when she left and that there is nothing for her there. Through it all, there is hope that Pell might find some peace for the future.

Meg Rosoff tells powerful stories and I look forward to every one of them.


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