Wednesday, February 12, 2014

All The Broken Things

All the Broken Things, by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer; © 2014, Random House Canada

I have been searching for a book to read that has the ability to reach out and touch me. On average, I read two books a month and can't say as how I've read much that has excited me since the end of last summer.

That changed when I was handed "All the Broken Things" by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer.

I am lucky to have many books recommended to me via my book club. Some of them are fabulous, some shocking, others barely worth the paper they are written on. Kuitenbrouwer's book went one better though, as one of our members got free copies of the book for everyone. While free books rock, that doesn't mean they are always worth the read. This one was.

Bo's family is displaced to Canada during the Vietnam War to escape from the evils of Agent Orange. While they escape the fighting, they are not immune to the effects that the defoliant has - Bo's father dies on the boat over and Bo's pregnant mother is not only covered in sores, but gives birth to any extremely disfigured baby girl. Unaffected to the naked eye, Bo carries his wounds on the inside.

The struggles that 14-year-old Bo faces are measured in the fights that he daily wages with classmates. His now 4-year-old sister Orange is unable to speak or walk, and is a source of shame to his family. Orange is kept inside; away from prying eyes that can't begin to understand this deformed monster. But for a boy that doesn't fit anywhere himself, does he understand his sister any better?

When one of Bo's fights is seen by Gerry, Bo finds himself in the world of small town fairs in Southern Ontario and discovers bear wrestling. Gerry thinks Bo would be a natural, and as Bo has been wrestling personal demons all his life, he takes to this bigger challenge with gusto. As he soon discovers though, no number of matches can erase his past.

Kuitenbrouwer paints a sombre picture of Bo and his attempts to make sense of his world. In his disenchanted view, the world is a tough place, but what he doesn't see is the soft spots that lie right in front of his eyes. Bo might feel broken, like many of us do at points in our own lives, but acceptance and perception are everything. There is room for life in all of us, and with her enchanting prose, Kuitenbrouwer encourages us to find our own life alongside Bo as he wrestles bears and all that life has handed him.

Thumbs up in my opinion! Thank you for helping me fall in love with reading again Kathryn.

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