A per­fect sto­ry­telling of an im­per­fect fam­ily

Napier Courier - - News -

Lenny’s Book of Ev­ery­thing — Karen Foxlee (Allen & Un­win, $22.99) re­viewed by Louise Ward, War­dini Books

Lenny lives with her mother, Cyn­thia Spink, a tiny wo­man who some­times gets dark heart feel­ings. Over­joyed at the birth of her son Davey, Cyn­thia none­the­less had a dark heart feel­ing on the day of his birth, and though this novel is full of love, that dark heart feel­ing looms large and cre­ates the most ex­quis­ite ten­sion. Davey is grow­ing at a rate of knots, and by the time he is six, he is as tall as a grown man.

Davey’s gi­gan­tism is a source of se­cret shame to Lenny — shame be­cause peo­ple stare and they can never just be nor­mal, and a greater shame that she is ashamed of the gi­gan­tic lit­tle brother she adores. Davey is sweet, kind and funny and the dumpling of their neigh­bour, the de­light­fully ec­cen­tric Mrs Gas­par. The chil­dren’s fa­ther, Peter Le­nard Spink, left one day and never re­turned and Lenny is left won­der­ing what fam­ily is, and what it might be.

Cyn­thia wins a sub­scrip­tion to the Bur­rell’s Build-It-At-Home En­cy­clo­pe­dia. Bug-ob­sessed Lenny and falcon-ob­sessed Davey — he has an imag­i­nary falcon called Timmy on his shoul­der most of the time — weave fan­tasies of run­ning away to Great Bear Lake in Canada around the en­tries on wildlife. They’re plan­ning their es­cape from creepy Mr King who looks at their mother in a wor­ry­ing way, Lenny’s fret­ting over their lost fa­ther and the strain of Davey’s wors­en­ing con­di­tion.

The novel de­scribes fam­ily life and love per­fectly, in that it is im­per­fect. Fam­i­lies are not al­ways blood rel­a­tives, what hap­pens is not al­ways fair, life can be dev­as­tat­ingly short but beau­ti­ful. This is one of those af­firm­ing, heart-break­ing books that needs to be read by smart 10 year olds and big-hearted 70 year olds who should talk about it and cry over it as though they know Lenny and Davey, which they do.

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