Sunday, December 27, 2015
Ship of Dolls, by Shirley Parenteau
The exchange of the dolls is a historical fact that was also the setting of one of my favorite books (The Friendship Doll, by Kirby Larson) which focuses on the story of the dolls that Japan sent to the United States in return. It's fascinating material for novelization and it's interesting how very different these two books are. Larson's book is a rather metaphysical book that attributes all sorts of magic to the dolls, while Parenteau's book is fairly firmly set in reality.
There's a great deal of sentimentality and wholesomeness to this book that might make the jaded reader wince (this book will upset far fewer adults than the ones I've been reading recently!). Lexie is a creature of her time (the 1920s), dutifully following expectations and living within her grandmother's strict conservative expectations. But she is also a deceptively strong and empowered girl. She makes quite a few poor choices, but she realizes her mistakes and is haunted by her conscience. And even when she would love nothing better than to hurt people who have hurt her, she is able to put aside her desire for vengeance and do what must be done. Certainly, her decision late in the story to give her most treasured possession away to someone who needs it more is heartbreaking and heartwarming. Throughout the story, we see Lexie fearlessly stand up for herself and eventually make the right choices in the end.