Heaven Eyes

18Apr10

Heaven Eyes, by David Almond popped to the top of my BSBSD (bedside book stack of doom for new readers). I spoke about David Almond’s Skellig not long ago, which may have something to do with why Heaven Eyes bubbled up on the stack.

Heaven Eyes, like Skellig, is magical realism “an aesthetic style or narrative mode in literature¬†[1] in which magical elements are blended into a realistic atmosphere in order to access a deeper understanding of reality.” The quote is from Wikipedia’s article on magical realism.

Briefly, and without spoiling the book for those who haven’t read it (for a change):

Erin Law is a fifteenish girl who lives in Whitegates, an orphanage in England. She has a clear voice and a keen eye for detail. Erin’s father is unknown and her mother died when she was ten. She keeps her mother close to her, and calls to her when she needs to be held. Her best friend is January Carr, who was left, nameless, at the orphanage but believes deeply and truly that his mother will come back an claim him. They, like many of the other kids at the orphanage, periodically “escape” like two year-olds who explore their environment and play at running away from mom, fully expecting mom to come after, and if she doesn’t they return to touch base before leaving again.

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Maureen is the headmistress-type person at Whitegates. She is somewhat sad, somewhat bitter. She views the children in her charges as “damaged,” and wants desperately to heal them, to be part of their lives–that is, to be a mother.

Erin and January escape on a raft, bringing the young Mouse Gullane and his pet mouse Squeek with them. The raft carries them to the Black Middens, a mud flat where they come close to drowning. They are rescued by pale child with webbed fingers, Heaven Eyes. She brings them to her Grampa, a wild, somewhat threatening old man who loves her, and would do anything . . . anything . . . to protect her and keep her happy. He tells her, and seems to believe, that people from the outside are ghosts. Heaven Eyes asks Erin whether she, January and Mouse are her lost brothers and sister.

I won’t go further discussing the plot, but the theme on several levels is mothering, and the book explores what it means to be what D. H. Winnicott would call a “good enough mother.” It explores the boundary issues, but also the deep, abiding and protective love of a mother and how it protects even long after the mother herself is gone.

And, yes. There is redemption.

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