Nation by Terry Pratchett
Harper Collins, New York, 2008
“When much is taken, something is returned.”
I’ve been hearing about Terry Pratchett for a long time and yet the only thing I ever read by him was a collaboration he wrote with Neil Gaiman, Good Omens:The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. I read that book a long time ago and don’t remember much of it.
After reading Nation I am somehow going to have to make time to at least start the Discworld series. Nation is complex, smart, funny and beautifully written.
It is a story of survival. After a terrible wave destroys much his island and all of his loved ones, Mau, a boy on the brink of manhood, must deal with his loss and figure out the best way to move forward, all the time hearing the voices of his “Grandfathers” telling him to stay with the old ways. He questions the gods, questions his great loss.
Mau is joined by Daphne, a young women from the wreck of the Sweet Judy, a mid-Victorian British ship. These two, so dissimilar and yet so alike, somehow find a way to communicate. They join forces and the smoke of their fire draws other survivors. They all must learn to find food and shelter, feed babies. get along and face the possibility of an enemy raid. Patchett has a gentle and thoughtful way of dealing with difficult issues, puberty, violence, racism and religion. And he is very, very funny. I am going to see that our school library gets a least one copy of this book and suggest it to every middle school student (and adult) I know.
The dreaming Mau let his body do the thinking: You lift like this, you pull like this. You cut the papervine like that, and you don’t scream, because you are a hand and a body and a knife, and they don’t even shed a tear. You are inside a thick gray skin that can feel nothing. And nothing can get through. Nothing at all. And you send the body sinking slowly into the deep current, away from birds and pigs and flies, and it will grow a new skin and become a dolphin. Page 29.
Somewhere out there, flying to him from the edge of the world, was tomorrow. He had no idea what shape it would be, but he was wary of it. They had food and fire, but that wasn’t enough. You had to fine water and food and shelter and a weapon, people said. And they thought that was all you had to have, because they took for granted the most important thing. You had to have a place where you belonged. Page 84
Valentina’s Room (this on has a great video of Pratchett talking about the book)