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Allusion is not Illusion

You'll pry my books off my cold, dead body. By the time you shift them all I'll be flat and dessicated.

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In addition to writing this book, Claire Dean also has a website where she will teach you to read auras.

I think it is fair to mention this in my review (hi, goodreads Stasi! Don't flag me!) because Dean has a note at the end of the book which tells the reader this and explains the basics of aura-reading and also describes her electricity-free rustic cabin where she and her two children forage for the edible plants mentioned throughout the book.

Presumably the website goes into greater nuance about auras than the author's note, which seemed simplistic to me: Purple "means you are sensitive, artistic, and idealistic. People with green auras are helpful, strong, and friendly," etc. Dean did a decent job giving her characters some complexity and depth, so I will give her the benefit of the doubt and suppose that the publisher wouldn't let her have more than a page to expound her woo-woo beliefs. Er, New Age? I don't know what the politer term is for people who think they can see auras and communicate with trees.

From the point of view of this particular reader, it is unfortunate that the book ended with this note, because it made me much less charitable. The main character, Polly Greene, is a prepubescent girl who can also see auras, as well as wings and other symbolic stuff around people. I didn't really have a problem with this, although it didn't particularly please me, either. Encountering this assertion in fiction, I assume that the character has synesthesia and is interpreting it as auras, or is imagining it, or actually has magical gifts (it wasn't immediately clear that this book wasn't fantasy), or is producing some sort of mental effect as a way of coping with stress.

And Polly's life is certainly stressful. Her older sister, who used to play fairies in the woods with her, abruptly became a cruel drug-addict fuck up, then ran away from home. Her parents divorced. She is bullied at school, in part because her adored grandmother is a Mary Sue back-to-nature type who lives in a cabin with no electricity and makes herbal remedies and delivers babies under a tree. So the townsfolk both think she is an evil witch (Idaho is a little backwards, I guess) and resent her from blocking development of the forest, which cost jobs. I think the author intended the reader to admire Baba a lot more than I in fact did.

Anyway, what I was saying is that, perhaps unfairly, I am okay with a character seeing auras and wanting to live free in the woods, but it is hard for not to scoff at people who espouse this view in real life. In real life, pregnant teen drug addicts who run away into the woods with no supplies don't make it through the winter. Unless they get saved by fairies, which I also would have been okay with.

But Dean is a decent writer, and Polly was a decently-constructed character, and I liked the book well enough.