It was the cover that first grabbed me. Watercolor swirls of blue, outlining brimming eyes dripping tears down into rolling waves on an ivory background. The title and author were afterthoughts: I had to read this book because I had to read about this cover.
Lucky for me, the cover evokes both the topics and themes of the book – a young woman grappling with the tragedies that have derailed her family, as well as the healing power of water and the sea. Sometimes it pays off to judge a book by its heartbreakingly emotive cover.
Eleanor tells the story of two Eleanors:
- One leaves behind dreams of competitive swimming to become a mother, despite feeling as though she wasn’t meant to be one.
- The other is the granddaughter of the first, whose family is ripping apart in the wake of her twin sister’s death.
While the story weaves the two timelines together, the focus falls on the younger Eleanor, who suddenly finds herself stepping out of this world into another, again and again. Each time, the world moves on without her and she learns that perhaps she might have some control over how her family came to be this way. But her success depends on her ability to control her new power, and on the secret knowledge of Mea, a stranger she meets in the other world who has watched her all her life.
This book has everything I love about literary fiction:
- The characters grapple with universal dilemmas: In this case, love, loss, depression, death, suicide, alcoholism, and abuse.
- The narrative is not plot-driven. There is a plot, but the characters are at least as important, if not more so than the plot.
- The focus is on cause and effect, and the accepted causality of events in the novel is called into question. I love when authors play with cause and effect, forcing readers to re-evaluate their preconceived notions.
- The author leaves the ending open, allowing the reader to extrapolate how the narrative’s events resolve.
You will not regret spending a day in Eleanor’s world(s). And you may just learn a few things from this strong young girl.
The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott – A confusing power that threatens to kill a young girl? Check. A first love with a boy who accepts her for who she is? Check. Lyrical writing that will force you to stay up all night to get to the last chapter? Check. Pretty blue cover that draws you in? Check. If you loved Eleanor, I know you’ll find The Wonder of All Things an engrossing read.
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell – David Mitchell, one of my favorite literary fiction authors, is the master of weaving together timelines. This book also touches on the themes of the lasting consequences of the choices we make and a mysterious power that can change the world. Mitchell’s story jumps through different point of views, though, so be forewarned that his novels have been described as jarring.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders – Childhood friends reconnect as they both seek to stop the apocalypse, one through engineering and the other through magic. Filled with magic and dark humor, this book hits on the themes of friendship and fate.
Eleanor is not Jason Gurley‘s first novel, but his previous works have mostly been self-published. It’s exciting to see when a self-published author hits the big time. Read more about the author here. Find more about Eleanor here, including a video from the author about how the book came to be. Read an excerpt here, but be forewarned that you will immediately need to run out and pick up a copy by the time you finish an excerpt. Go here to figure out where you can find one, whether that be a library or a bookstore. And I highly recommend checking out the author’s discussion of the music that inspired him while writing Eleanor. For a novel whose writing is best described as lyrical, it makes sense to check out the music that kept its author in the zone.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.