Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Book Review: Eli the Good, by Silas House

Eli the Good takes place the summer of 1976, when Eli was ten years old. I was 14 years old that year, and I could relate to the period represented in this book. I, however, did not have to face the difficult bi-centennial summer that Eli did.

This book was beautifully written. Silas House could write about any time period and make it come alive. The descriptions were lyrical and when he talked about the oppressive heat of the sun, I almost broke a sweat.

The first paragraph of the book sums up Eli’s summer. His Aunt Nell comes for a visit bearing a secret. His father’s ability to deal with his experiences in Vietnam is failing, and this is causing many problems for the family. Eli’s neighbor and best friend, Edie, is having family problems of her own, and Eli doesn’t help much in her time of need. And Eli’s sister Josie’s teenage rebellion is much more than it seems.

This is a book about secrets and how one family deals with them. It’s mostly a beautiful, easy, story to read, but there’ sadness, tension, and humor mixed in. Eli’s a kid, and the world that should be so simple for him isn’t simple at all. Eli is good, just like the title says. He wants to help everyone, but he doesn’t know how, and he’s human too, and makes mistakes.

Once again, I feel compelled to include a few quotes, because I think they are so eloquent:

It was a turning point in our lives. Strange, how such a small realization can affect everyone’s life forever. In movies, there is always a carefully staged moment—a big crescendo of music, close ups of the actors faces, the camera slowly pulling away to let all this sink in for the viewer....But in real life, most all of the extraordinary things happen with no more loudness than a whisper. P. 36.

Years later I would realize that this was one of the world’s great problems, that people often allow themselves not to think. They choose to not think, and that’s how the whole world gets into trouble. My only excuse that day was that I was a child. P. 195

The war slid right back down his body as if he were stepping into a new set of clothes. P. 254

This book is heartwarming and thought provoking. I think this would be an excellent piece of literature for a classroom read--lots of potential for discussion here. It may be a hard sell to the average young person, but history buffs, boys or girls, will like it. It’s an easy, interesting middle school book about a period of time in our nation’s history that needs some attention. I won’t hesitate to push this one.

Published by Candlewisk, February, 2011
Copy obtained from the publisher and LibraryThing
295 pages

Rating: 4/5

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1 comment:

  1. I loved this one too. But I think has much more appeal for adults than for kids. It has a wonderful nostalgia factor going for it as well as the beauty of the language.


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