Sweeney, Aoibheann. Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking. I found this book read really fast...not that it was exciting, but that from the beginning Sweeney raises questions and arouses curiosity. It is the story of Miranda Donnal who moved to Maine with her parents when she was almost three and whose mother drowned within a few months of the family's arrival on Crab Island. Her father is busy with a translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses and has little time or emotional energy to spare for Miranda. Mr. Blackwell keeps the family together until Miranda is ten. He does all of the practical things that Miranda's father seems either oblivious to or incapable of. There are lots of little hints throughout the novel, but no special importance appears to be given to them. As a reader, you may find yourself asking questions about events and relationships, but there is no sense of urgency.
The novel is a bildungsroman, a coming of age tale. Miranda learns to deal with the isolation her father has created and to trust her own emotions. In many ways, it is an ordinary tale about an ordinary girl who makes the transition from childhood to adulthood without any earth-shattering events...except for one twist. And even that twist is treated without fanfare, as a normal part of discovering all of the aspects of one's self. The title (which I still don't think does the book a favor) is an example of the lack of fanfare involved in Miranda's decisions. She does what is right for her...among other things.
Reading it was a pleasure thanks to Sweeney's prose. How involved I found myself with this odd girl and her odd and isolated circumstances and her eventual move into a wider world ...
Another advance copy from Anna at FSB Associates. Thanks, Anna!
Fiction. Coming-of-age story. 2007. 257 pages.