Thursday, April 3, 2014

No Book But the World - Book Review

A young boy is found dead in the woods near his home and Fred Robbins has been arrested for the crime. When his sister Ava learns of Fred's arrest, she quickly plans a trip to the small town where he is being held. In shock, she wonders how Fred even got from Cape Cod, where he was supposed to be working for and living with an old family friend, to this small town in the north where he is being accused of murder. Fred has always been "different" but his free-thinking parents allowed him a blissful childhood, exploring in the woods near the now-closed alternative school where the family lived.

As Ava reminisces about their past and seeks to help Fred, a window is opened into their seemingly idealized childhood and the early clues that may help in Fred's defense but ultimately help Ava understand her role as sister and improve her own relationships with her husband and family.

While my siblings and I did attend school, as I read No Book But the World by Leah Hager Cohen I couldn't help remembering our childhood days running somewhat-wild on our farm and the stretching "woods" across the street. In the overgrown willows and cottonwoods that grew along the canal, we built tree houses and huts and swung on the "Tarzan swing", returning home only when we heard the ringing of the cow bell that hung by the back door of our house.

In her novel Cohen's beautiful words capture the freedom and joy of childhood while reminding  us that as adults we reflect our  upbringings for good and bad. Our childhoods are an essential part of our story. Cohen examines how our familial ties effect our lives and how much responsibility we have for our siblings and their choices.

The characters and setting are so believable, the novel read like a memoir. Surely, Batter Hollow and the defunct school campus really exists. Ava is unlike most protagonists with her quiet, unassuming ways. Even though she would have shrunk from the attempt, I wanted to give her a hug. While it is at it's heart, a tragedy, the novel had moments of beauty and hope.

I thoroughly enjoyed No Book But the World. Cohen, at once, weaves a tender and haunting story while making the reader think about relationships and responsibilities.

No Book But the World by Leah Hager Cohen is published by Riverhead Books and released on April 3, 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of No Book But the World in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are my own. No additional compensation was received.**

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