The Land of Decoration is a first-person story, told by a ten-year-old girl who has invented her own refuge from the toxic world around her. Judith McPherson collects bits of junk and trash and builds an imaginary land in her bedroom that she calls The Land of Decoration. In it, things are the way Judith wants them to be. Her father isn’t a deluded fundamentalist in unspoken mourning for the wife who died in childbirth—Judith’s birth. Judith isn’t responsible for the death of her mother. She and her father don’t spend weekends preaching Armageddon door-to-door, nights reading the Bible aloud and Sundays in endless meeting. The bullies and little horror shows who pass for children in her classroom don’t torment her with obscene notes, wads of green snot blown into her hair or incidents of head-stuffing in toilets at recess.
I so didn’t want to keep reading this book once I had started it. I’m a little sick of novels about aberrant and abused children coping with conditions no grown-up in their life seems capable of seeing or protecting them from. This is that book. But it is well-written and Judith is half-likable and half-lost—you do want her to be all right in the end. Not sure she achieves that but there is a profound resolution to the events that befall her after she performs a miracle.
The miracle is a blinding snowstorm, an early blizzard that closes down school, work and the town, cocooning Judith in a soft white blanket with no nasty classmates. She made it happen by covering the Land of Decoration in “snow” because God, who speaks loudly to her in her room, sort of prompted her to take charge. Judith absolutely believes in her own power and is giddy with her success. She contemplates more miracles, even as the bullying intensifies and the town moves toward a disastrous factory strike that will bring out even worse behavior in its residents. The “miracle” is the beginning of the unraveling.
Finished the book because it is due back today. Talented writer. Fine story. My recommendation is that you read only one or two of these a year—unless you aspire to chronic depression. In novels, kids suffer, adults suffer, everybody suffers. Just like real life. But this is a particular moment in history when we need our stories to redeem us. So, no more distressed children recounting their fractured lives and clever coping mechanisms. I’m grabbing an Agatha Christie mystery and appointing Hercule Poirot to sort things out and leave me feeling as if there is some hope for us. Bad guys commit evil deeds; slightly flawed good guys catch them; justice prevails. Utopian, admittedly, but very satisfying.
The Land of Decoration: A Novel Grace McCleen | Henry Holt and Company 2012