Friday, August 13, 2010
The Heart Is Not a Size, by Beth Kephart
One day Georgia finds a flyer posted on the wall calling for teen volunteers to go down to Anapra (a squatter's village outside of Juarez) to help build a bathhouse. For a reason that she cannot explain, Georgia feels strongly drawn to the opportunity and she talks her friend Riley into joining her. Living fairly privileged Main Line lives, neither girl knows truly what to expect. But while there is plenty of culture shock and the work is far more difficult than either one of them imagined, it is what the trip does to their friendship that is the most surprising.
Kephart writes beautiful dream-like prose. Her novels work best when there is a strong story to provide the framework for it. But in this book, she struggles with finding that story.
As she explains in her acknowledgments at the end of the book, she wrote this book as a response to her own actual trip to Anapra. It is thus no surprise that the parts of the story that describe the location and the people are particularly moving. Similarly, the emotions that Georgia feels are heartfelt and come across clearly. But the story upon which these sections are framed is sketchy and underdeveloped.