Judith and her father don’t have much—their house is full of dusty relics, reminders of the mother she’s never known. But Judith sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith, and where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility. Bullied at school, she finds solace in making a model of the Promised Land—little people made from pipe cleaners, a sliver of moon, luminous stars, and a mirror sea—a world of wonder that Judith calls the Land of Decoration. Perhaps, she thinks, if she makes it snow indoors (using shaving cream and cotton balls and Scotch tape) there will be no school on Monday. Sure enough, when Judith opens her curtains the next day, the world beyond her window has turned white. She has performed her first miracle. And that’s when her troubles begin.
With its intensely taut storytelling and gorgeous prose, The Land of Decoration is a breathtaking story of good and evil, belief and doubt.
In The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen a ten year old girl, Judith, creates everything in her land of decoration from bits of scraps and rubbish. The book opens with Judith creating her land following the creation story from the book of Genesis. Judith's mother died after her birth, leaving her stern father to raise her alone. She and her father read the Bible daily and belong to a religious group that is sure Armageddon is coming soon and requires them to go door to door proselytizing others.
Her father works at the mill, while Judith attends the local school where she is bullied daily. After she is inspired by a visiting preacher, Judith is convinced that she is able to perform miracles when she makes it snow in her land of decoration and then a freakishly early, hard snow storm occurs in real life. She also is convinced that she is hearing God's voice. When the workers at the mill go on strike mill and her father becomes a scab, the teasing and tormenting of the family escalates, putting both Judith and her father into a crisis of faith. (Not that it matters to the story but Judith and her father are probably Jehovah’s Witnesses.)
This is a difficult novel to assign a rating. First, I had to force myself to keep reading at the beginning of The Land of Decoration. It just wasn't flowing for me or capturing my attention in any way. It did, eventually, but I couldn't help but think that if the prose had been tightened up, if the action picked up a bit quicker it might have been more engaging right away. I guess there were several other tough parts of the book for me. I struggled with Judith's inability to talk to her father. Her miracles and conversations with God left me wondering if she was schizophrenic.
Recommended, but a rather disconcerting book
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Picador via Netgalley for review purposes.