Set on Moonpenny Island, a “a dot, a titch, a pinch” in Lake Erie, this tale of friendship, fossils and forgiveness is exquisitely written and wonderfully insightful. Flor and Sylvie are “each other’s perfect friend” and have always been completely transparent to each other. But when Sylvie announces that she is going to school on the mainland and will live with her aunt and uncle there, it becomes clear that there are things she hasn’t told Flor. So now Flor is left as the only 11 year-old on the island, and it seems that her family is drifting apart as well.
Told in the present tense, the third person narrator shows both affection and acuity towards Flor. Two connected strands weave through the book and are embodied in a visiting geologist, Dr Fife, and his daughter, Jasper. Jasper is fascinated by evolution and how species must change and adapt over time, and Dr Fife’s area of expertise, trilobites, demonstrates this, particularly in the area of vision. And vision is also the second strand: “How often do we look at something and not really see it?”
Springstubb does an extraordinary job of bringing these two themes explicitly but not heavyhandedly, to Flor’s situation. She must change and adapt because “time’s not supposed to stand still…it’s supposed to march on”; and the only way she can do that is to be naked and vulnerable, like a trilobite was when its shell got too small and before the new shell had grown. It is only by using her powers of observation, and seeing through others’ eyes that Flor will begin to be able to “map the ways of the heart.”
I thought I’d overdosed on realistic novels about girls on the cusp of adolescence, but this gem brought me back into the fold. I believe this superb novel showing “life at its most glorious, unpredictable best!”, where not a word is wasted, will be enjoyed by many readers and can open their eyes to what growing up means.