Green Angel by Alice Hoffman, 116 pages
Once Upon a Time IV
"I once believed that life was a gift. I thought whatever I wanted I would someday possess. Is that greed, or only youth? Is it hope or stupidity? As far as I was concerned the future was a book I could to suit myself, chapter after chapter of good fortune." (first sentence in book)
A timeless tale that could have been in the 1500s or just as easily a 9/11 tale, or even at future apocalyptic novel. Personally, I read it as a family living across the river from New York during 9/11. The book was published in 2003, and lines like, "People who were close by said they could see people jumping from the buildings, like silver birds, like bright diamonds," and "the people who had destroyed the city...had been living among us pretending to be good neighbors," certainly sound that way. I like the idea that it might be.
Green, a sixteen year old girl, lives on the farm with her family feeling overshadowed by her vibrant sister. Teenage angst. One day Green stayed home to tend the garden while her family took the vegetables to the city across the river. The silver city burns, living Green alone. She falls into grief, cinders in her eyes, begins to call herself Ash. Gradually, she starts to help some people around her (assorted animals, an elderly neighbour, one of the wild children running feral in the woods nearby, a wandering boy, Diamond) and pulls out of her self.
Heart - Soul - Treasure - Rain - Sister (the five sections of the book)
"I crawled under the dining room table, smelling like smoke and half-blinded by cinders. Little bits of hot embers flew under the door. Onion followed and lay shivering in my lap. I was Green, who was too shy to speak. Green, too angry to say good-bye. Green, who was always waiting for the future, biding her time. Now the future was here and the silver city across the river was on fire and I was hiding under the table, where I stayed until darkness fell."
My summary doesn't hint at the poetry, the fairy tale elements, the wonderful way Hoffman describes Green as she travels through the stages of grief. The dreams and visions add to the fairy tale. It was a beautiful story.