Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book Bite - What's in the box?

"Quentin Fears never told his parents the last thing his sister Lizzy said to him before they pulled the plug on her and let her die."
~ first line of Treasure Box by Orson Scott Card

Isn't that one of the best opening lines you've ever read? Doesn't it make you want to know more about that boy, with the last name of Fears, and why his sister Lizzie died? What did she say to him before she died? Why did her parents let her die? And what, exactly, is the treasure box that the title refers to?

A fellow book-loving friend of mine recommended this book to me, and he has never steered me wrong with one of his recommendations, so I ordered it from Paperback Swap. A few days later, my husband and I were leaving the house to go to a party and we checked our mailbox on the way out. This book had arrived. I opened it in the car and flipped to the front, just scanning it over out of curiosity, since my friend hadn't told me anything specific about it. Next thing I knew, a half-hour had passed, we'd arrived at our destination and my husband was telling me I had to get out of the car. I'd gotten completely sucked into the book and had read it for the entire car ride. I didn't want to go in to the party. I seriously wanted to stay in the car and read. It was that good.

I have a thing for opening lines. If an author can't capture my attention in the first sentence, or the first paragraph, then there's not much hope of me enjoying the journey, or finishing the book for that matter. It's not a hard and fast rule or anything, just something I've noticed after all my years of reading. Not only did this book open in an interesting place, but it has one of the best closing passages I've ever read. Beautifully written, deeply satisfying, poetic and hopeful; when I got to the end I read it over and over at least three times. Then, a couple of days later, when I walked by and saw it sitting on the table, I picked it up and read it again, just to enjoy that moment all over again. An opening sentence and a closing verse do not a successful novel make, however, I'm pleased to report that the bits in between delivered on all the promises made in the opening lines, and then some.

If you've ever heard of the author Orson Scott Card, it is probably from his book, Ender's Game, which if you haven't read yet, then turn off the computer and get yourself to a library or bookstore right now. It is a sci-fi classic. Simply wonderful. That was the only book I'd read of Card's, so I assumed Treasure Box was going to be another sci-fi book, set in the future in outer space. On the contrary, this book is set in modern times, in regular old everyday America. It follows a boy named Quentin Fears, as he mourns his sister's death. He grows up to be a very successful millionaire computer entrepreneur while at the same time being very socially awkward and reclusive, untrusting and unwilling to open himself to love anyone, for fear of losing them like he lost his sister. Then he meets Madeline at a posh party in Washington D.C., someone who is also hiding the hurts of her childhood and a mysterious past.

Halfway through the book, things start turning slightly to the left and even then you, like the main character, accept the explanations for the odd happenings because, no one believes in ghosts, right? And so far the majority of the book has been grounded in reality, so it puts you as a reader in the same disbelieving position of the main character. Card has an absolutely amazing and enviable skill at foreshadowing. He is so deft and so subtle, you don't notice it until the final act, when you look back and see the answers were there all the long. He is a genius at story structure and execution as well as writing engaging, clever dialog. The story slowly builds to a powerhouse of a final scene, but the strong development of the characters and their motivations, as well as the layers of the mystery, are what keep you hanging on for the ride.

You'll notice I mentioned ghosts. Please note that this is not a ghost story or a horror novel, in the traditional sense, but the supernatural does play a significant role. It was refreshing to read a novel where good and evil were firmly defined and put in their proper places (instead of having the evil monster be the hunky hero - Twilight, I'm looking at you). Additionally, it was nice to read an excellent novel that didn't contain anything gratuitous within (i.e. language, violence, sex).

I want so desperately to recommend this book to you, Gentle Readers, and to write a review that makes you want to read it, but I also don't want to ruin the adventure for you, so that's why some of my descriptions of the book may seem vague. I now see the challenge most book and movie reviewers have in writing spoiler-free reviews!

If you happen to give Treasure Box a chance, please be sure to come back and leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of it. Or if you have a good book recommendation, please leave it in the comments. I'm always looking for the next great adventure!


Anonymous said...

This is one I'll pick up again! Loved all the things you mentioned. Packs a wallop and keeps you guessing. What more could a reader ask for?

chandy said...

That sounds really interesting! I'd love to borrow it sometime!

Maggie said...

Next time you find yourself with lots of free time and nothing to read, Card has a Women of Genesis series that is AMAZING!!! Well the first two are. I could never read Rachel and Leah after reading The Red Tent, which is another Biblical fiction novel based on those two. But seriously, I reread the first two ALL the time!!!

D.L. White said...

@Chad - Thanks again for the recommendation. I think I'll read it again sometime soon as well. Now that I know all the plot twists, I think it would be fun to read it again and pick up on all the clues and see how he wove them all together.

@Chandy - Anytime!

@Maggie - Thanks for the recommendations. I went to Card's website and was floored by how prolific (and varied) a writer he is!

I've read "The Red Tent" - it was an interesting take on that story. Did you like it?

chandy said...

I read the Red Tent years ago, and remembered really enjoying it. I'd like to pick that one up again sometime. Let me know if you want to borrow my copy.

Thanks for letting me borrow this one! I can't wait to read it!

(And that, right there, is the number one reason that the printed book is better than the kindle ;)

Laura said...

I need to read this also, can I be on the "loan list" after Chandy?

And about the Twilight "sexy vampire" thing... I have a funny comparison, try to go with me here. :)

I was thinking about heavy metal hair-bands from the 80's and how hard core heavy metal music fans felt when hair-bands like Bon Jovi, Poison, White Snake and the like, popped up and were considered heavy metal music. I remember the guy I was dating had a fit about those bands. He liked heavy metal music and was terribly offended that hair-bands got put in the same genre as his beloved Black Sabbath and AC/DC.

I imagine that's how you feel when authors like Stephanie Meyers are put in the same category with Bram Stoker.

Kristi said...

You write really great book reviews and though the first line of this book would be enough to not make me want to pick it up (I don't like to read to be depressed and just reading that first line totally depressed me!), I still appreciate your reviewer efforts. :)

D.L. White said...

Thanks for the compliment, Kristi!

I won't lie - the death of his big sister is definitely very sad. But it's her love and the way she encouraged him, and her example, that gives him the courage to make some big steps in his life.

And it really does have a very hopeful, happy, satisfying ending. And I think the trials and dark places make those victories and happy places all the more sweeter. But I also understand that sometimes you just don't enjoy spending time in that sad place, no matter how happy the final outcome is.