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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pre-teen girls with guns sounds kinda bad when I think about it

You guys, have I talked about True Grit yet?

I read it ages ago. It might have been when I was between blogs. Or maybe I've already written about it and it was brilliant and I've forgotten but you remember and you'll compare this one unfavorably. Back then I still had some passion. It was before I'd "sold out." Now I'm just catering to the masses and have lost my sense of individuality. Also you liked my drummer better then, which honestly I'm not sure what you're even talking about at this point, hypothetical reader.

You see I make up hypothetical readers because I have very little evidence of any other kind.

Anyway, the reason I want to talk about True Grit is because of One Came Home

Do you guys like it when I say I'm going to write about one book and then I talk about the other one first and then circle back to the original one? Hmm. How about you, hypothetical reader? You're on board? Good.

I just finished Amy Timberlake's One Came Home, like two hours ago, and gosh I sure liked it. If you forced me by gunpoint to rank the books I've read in the last few years I'd probably make you shoot me because I hate ranking things instead of just enjoying them and frankly I'm glad that I live in a world where all of these great things exist. I liked this book that much.

I liked True Grit a lot, too. And the reason I bring it up is because they start out very similarly. So much so, in fact, that I almost stopped reading One Came Home. I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because the two diverge in a very satisfying way within a couple chapters, and then I found myself on a journey that was equally delightful but in very different ways.

True Grit
“People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.” 
Maybe you've seen the movie and have a pretty good idea of what we're dealing with here, and you'd be right. The dialogue, which is witty and fierce and amazing is mostly intact. What you're missing out on, though, is the extra narration Mattie Ross provides. Like this:

“As he drank, little brown drops of coffee clung to his mustache like dew. Men will live like billy goats if they are let alone.” 
And this:
"I have known some horses and a good many more pigs who I believe harbored evil intent in their hearts. I will go further and say all cats are wicked, though often useful. Who has not seen Satan in their sly faces? Some preachers will say, well, that is superstitious "claptrap." My answer is this: Preacher, go to your Bible and read Luke 8: 26-33” 
Mattie Ross might be my favorite literary character of all time if I were the type to rank things.  (Which I'm not, but she's up there with Francie Nolan.) 

If you liked the movie, read the book. If you don't like any movies, read the book. If you don't like any books and have never enjoyed a book or if you only read books about vampires or about Mormons who fall in love you should still read the book.

Oh and while you're reading books read One Came Home, why doncha?

Listen: I'm not breaking any ground comparing this to True Grit. Some goofball on Goodreads called it "True Grit for babies." I think that's stupid, myself, but I've read both of them and have blogged about neither (I think), and anyway here's another thing: Whatever.

Even on Amy Timberlake's website there is the unfortunate quote from Bookpage, "...TRUE GRIT for the middle-school set" well guess what? Good books are for everybody.

“I say let all the earth be alive and overwhelmingly so. Let the sky be pressed to bursting with wings, beaks, pumping hearts, and driving muscles. Let it be noisy. Let it make a mess. Then let me find my allotted space. Let me feel how I bump up against every other living thing on this earth. Let me learn to spin.” 
They start out similar, and at first glance, but Georgie Burkhardt is not Mattie Ross. Just compare Georgie's above statement with Mattie Ross' musings. Georgie lets herself feel things harder. She's pragmatic, sure, but she's also a 13-year-old girl. I've heard criticisms that Mattie Ross is just interesting because she's a man in a 14-year-old girl's body. I don't necessarily agree, but I think it makes Georgie interesting that she's much more in touch with her emotions and still goes ahead and does something amazing. Also she's a crack shot. Best shot in town.

Instead of heading out to avenge her father's death, Georgie's looking into the apparent murder of her sister. She's not buying it, and sets out to figure out what went wrong. It has such a wonderful intro:
"So it comes to this, I remember thinking on Wednesday, June 7, `1871. The date sticks in my mind because it was the day of my sister’s first funeral and I knew it wasn’t her last–which is why I left."
Her companion, Billy McCabe is much more companionable than "Rooster" Cogburn. And yet they manage to share pretty delightful exchanges anyway. Each taking pleasure in outsmarting the other.

Anyway guys it's a good book. Also there's some great stuff about a massive nesting of the now-extinct passenger pigeon in 1871 that serves as a backdrop to Georgie's adventure. Don't let that middle-school crap fool you. We were all 13 year old girls once, right?