The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

Judith and her father don't have much - their house is full of dusty relics, reminders of the mother she's never known.
But Judith sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith, and where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility.
Bullied at school, she finds solace in making a model of the Promised Land - little people made from pipe cleaners, a sliver of moon, luminous stars and a mirror sea - a world of wonder that Judith calls The Land of Decoration.
Perhaps, she thinks, if she makes it snow indoors (using shaving foam and cotton wool and cellophane) there will be no school on Monday...
Sure enough, when Judith opens her curtains the next day, the world beyond her window has turned white. She has performed her first miracle. And that's when her troubles begin.

The Land of Decoration is a very fine piece of storytelling and very well written. The story is both gorgeous, heart-piercing - and slightly confusing. I was at times fairly baffled about the doings of certain characters, but overall it was a very good read that I found difficult to put down.

The characters feel very well put together as does the world-building with the exception of the other Beliebers Believers. Some of these are described more like caricatures of nutty people rather than real people like the rest of the book's inhabitants. Particularly the bully and his dad and the environment they come from was so straightforward and socio-realistic that the others' ridiculousness stuck out like a sore thumb.

Judith is such a sweet and clever girl and yet so hopelessly blinded by her faith and her overpowering sadness. Her mother died in childbirth and she's certain her father blames her for it - and frankly the way he acts, you want to punch him several times. They are fanatical religious, belonging to a devout little Flock and outcast from the rest of their family. They are sheltered from the world and certain Armageddon is just around the corner. Combine all this with a girl who starts performing miracles on behalf of God, or so he tells her, and you've got the potential recipe for disaster.

I wasn't terribly fond of the ending, it felt overly dramatic and then very anti-climatic. It also became quite vague in telling us what actually goes on. A part of it I wasn't actually able to decipher, but I'm always shit at understanding vague hints, particularly when it's built on faith and religion -two things I don't have myself.

It was a very different book from what I usually read, but I'm glad I've read it.

The Land of Decoration
Read in Danish - Det Herlige Land
by Grace McCleen
ISBN13: 9788702116014
296 pages / published in 2013 (first published in 2011)

Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2014


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