Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tea Time: In a Handful of Dust

Guys I'm going to be squealing so much about this book. You have been warned.

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

In a Handful of Dust, Mindy McGinnis

The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink
, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier. (source:goodreads)

Narrative-IN A HANDFUL OF DUST is told from the third person POV, largely from the perspective of Lucy (whereas in NOT A DROP TO DRINK the story was told in Lynn's perspective). Anyway, McGinnis is basically a master of snark, and it shows through the narrative and the dialogue, and it's something that was constantly able to make me smile. There's careful attention taken to the kinds of knowledge Lucy does and doesn't have (such as the importance of a five-gallon bucket versus what a pool is), and I feel like it just catapults the writing to a whole new level.

By the way, remember how excited i get reading a book in the third person POV? This book made me so happy just for that reason.

The one downside I have (and it is truly painful taking one star away because of this) is that, occasionally, the writing felt a bit jumbled. One sentence felt weird beside another; maybe it was a repetition of words or something, but more than a few times I was tripped up. Also, while I love poetry (and McGinnis took the title of this book from a T.S. Eliot poem and T.S. Eliot is my favorite poet ever), there were a few smatterings of poetry in there when the characters were quoting straight from a book they'd read in the past, and occasionally it just felt...weird?

Fortunately, this didn't happen often. All that really matters: the style of narrative is almost perfect, and it is so easy to get lost in.

Plot-Now, let me tell you right away that this book, just like McGinnis' NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is not completely action-filled-edge-of-your-seat-thriller. It's definitely slower paced than many other novels, especially considering its genre and setting in the post-apocalyptic of sorts.

I will beg ya'll not to let that be your deciding factor.

The charm in this book is that it's a book about survival. In the direst circumstances, in the nastiest of ways (both literally and figuratively). Lynn's a girl (well, now a woman) who grew up with a cold-ish heart, doing whatever necessary to stay alive and protect what's hers; Lucy's one who was mostly spared from a grisly childhood. Both of them have now been thrust into a scenario that neither of them are prepared for, in surroundings that are both the same and different.

And what I love most of all? It's filled with so many truths. About life in general, about survival. It all applies both to the situation created here and in our own lives, and every time I came across one of these moments it felt simply natural.

I also almost cried. Damn it, and my record for reading a book without crying has actually looked pretty good, lately.

The bottom line, is: no, there's not a lot of action. And yet, there is, and a lot of it is a beautiful mental game interspersed with some truly wicked people that Lynn and Lucky meet out on the road. Every now and again they find someone decent, but the fleetingness of those moments are truly quick to pass and actually reminded me of how short times last. Nothing good can last forever, right?

A bleak look at a future, but totally hopeful. None of the stories ever really ended, and it was absolutely beautiful.

Characters-Based on what I said previously, it should come as no surprise when I say: there's really only two main characters worth actually talking about. Therefore, this might get long because I absolutely adore the both of them.

Are ya'll ready for this?

Lynn. I cannot express how excited I was to see Lynn again after the events in NOT A DROP TO DRINK. She's independent, trusts nobody, and at least pretends to know what she's doing. Considering that's basically me in a literary nutshell. And guess what? IN A HANDFUL OF DUST is roughly ten years later, and she's still got all of her coarse and mistrusting sass with her, along with that fabulous rifle of hers. And it's even better, because Lucy is all grown up and can sass her right back, and let's face it: she might not be Lynn's biological daughter, but Lynn managed to pass along all of her stubbornness and will to survive. Even better? Her love for Lucy and her determination to keep her alive and happy make her an even rougher human being; she's a mama bear protecting her cub, no matter what, and she literally will not die if Lucy forbids it.

I'm not even kidding. Read the book and you'll find out, and your respect for Lynn will skyrocket.

Lucy. She is such a sweetheart and just as stubborn as Lynn and I can't even hate her for it. I mentioned already how the two girls are basically the same, but they're also both incredibly different. Where Lynn would prefer to shoot every stranger she meets and never find out if they were good or bad, Lucy, for the most part, is willing to think them good until they do something bad. Now, mark my words: she's not trusting them. That's something she's learned from Lynn. But more often than not her softer heart is more likely to give them chances that they might have missed otherwise. She's had an opportunity that Lynn never had: a chance to grow up in relative safety, around people who more than likely weren't trying to kill her. This means she has a capacity for more compassion, and throughout the entire novel there's an inner struggle for Lucy over whether this makes her weak or not. There's a few references to her real mother (who is only present in NOT A DROP TO DRINK), and her thought is that since her mother committed suicide, then she, too, must not be strong enough to survive without the help of somebody like Lynn by her side.

And I think that struggle is real for many people, that question of whether being dependent on somebody makes one weak, and whether their traits are carried biologically or through the caretaker. Is Lucy meant to carry on in the steps of her birth mother, or of the woman who raised her?

These characters are obviously special, and they will probably always have a place in my heart. There's other characters that show up, too: Vera, Stebbs, a man named Fletcher, a woman named Joss, a Ben, Ben's father, a Dan...that's a pretty good sum, and they're listed in no particular order. What I loved about all of them? There's no formula to know who's good and who's bad. And all of them have reasons for doing what they do, which brings up one of my favorite questions in terms of survivalist tales: how far would you go to live another day?

Okay, is there any real, comprehensible way for me to tell you how much I adore and love this book? And McGinnis in general? If ya'll haven't already, put up the first book set in this world, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, starring a younger Lynn. It's not required to read it before IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, since this one is a companion novel, and not strictly a sequel, so there really is no excuse not to read both of them. I'm sorry, did that not make sense?

Yeah, that apology wasn't exactly sincere. Go read these books. You won't regret it.

Final Answer:  4.75 / 5

Tweet It:

One road, two stubborn girls. IN A HANDFUL OF DUST @MindyMcGinnis gets almost 5 stars. Read the review via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

@Rae_Slater raves over IN A HANDFUL OF DUST @MindyMcGinnis, giving it 4.75 / 5 stars. Read the review (Click to Tweet)

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