Lacey's House by Joanne Graham
After reading this book I sat for a while, totally speechless and dumbfounded. It took several minutes, a lot of 'several minutes' actually, to come back to my own life and its immediate demands. Believe me, I almost did it kicking and screaming!
For a debut novel, this is surely one of the best I have ever read! There is so much I want to, and can, say, but somehow my thoughts just drifted off in a multicolored hot air balloon over the Winscombe skies. There was simply none left for me to write a suitable review with.
Two women, young Rachel Moore and 84-year old Tracey Eleanor Carmichael, ended up living side by side in Apple Lane, Winscombe where Rachel moved into Dove cottage next to Tracey. The address was not only words to suit a chocolate-box address. Lacey's House would open up a journey for both to finally rise above: electric shock treatments; a lobotomy; a cruel life in an orphanage; an unknown mother who valued her alcohol addiction above everything else; a monstrous doctor; an ignorant vicious community; a village outlay in the form of a question mark; a woman talking to the dead at their graves, planting roses there because it was a hated flower for that particular deceased, since in real life her words was forced inside her head for safety reasons; a cat named Peachy. And then there was Charlie...
"That's the funny thing about small village life, reputations often last longer than the person themselves." But perceptions can be forced to change. When "Albert was dead lying on the floor of his house with his blood serving as a cushion for his head", the increasingly embellished tale of a witch, which was told to children in the dark of night, suddenly took a turn that would change lives forever.
Without the truth, fiction is not possible. "This story... this story is different, tantalizing, compelling" Lacey herself said that, which saves me from using the publishing-industry's neologism to sing the praise of this 2012 Luke Bitmead Bursary Award-winning book. Although there's no love lost for sentimentality in the book, the same compassionate message is present as evident in my speechless state of wonder afterwards!
This tale proves a theory: Anything, from an unwanted -ism to an un-addressed emotion, forced underground, takes root and flourish. People sadly and often deny it. And if it is nourished well, deeply loved, it can push up beautiful flowers to face the sun. But to become beautiful, it needs strong roots underground, in the often dark, in the uncompromising toughness of the earth. It is the only way that the perfect flowers can rise above the surface and charm the world. Even well-nourished weeds have beautiful flowers.
This book addresses the wealth and strength of the human spirit in unimaginable ways. The elements used in the book, two vastly opposite life stories, with one common denominator namely the absence of love as children, are not unknown to the world at all, but the combination used in this narrative, makes it stand out way above the average novel in this genre.
The conclusion is surprising and original.
In the end it confronts us all, who we are and how we ended up as human beings and what became of us in the aftermath of those choices. It is not how and where we were planted,but how we utilized the nourishment bestowed on us to paint the picture we would ultimately call our chocolate-box address. What a difference attitude can make!