Friday, March 19, 2010

Book review: Asta in the Wings


Asta in the Wings is a heartbreaker of a story. I don't know how else to describe it. The main character and narrator, Asta, is an endearing little seven year-old who has a penchant for the dramatic. She is best friends with her nine year-old brother, Orion. Orion is less dramatic but gifted in math and science. They live alone with their mother. And, their mother is a bit of a lunatic.

For as long as they can remember, Asta and Orion have been locked in their rural Maine home. They have literally never played outside, never gone into a store, never ridden a bus or talked with a stranger. Why? Because their mother has lead them to believe that there is a plague outside of their house and bodies are piled on street corners. That's not all. Germs are everywhere and food is contaminated. Their mother bolts them inside their house every day and leaves them to care for themselves. While alone, they create a number of games and stories to keep their minds occupied, but not can save them from the day that their mother fails to return home after work.

Emaciated and freezing, Orion and Asta venture out into the unfamiliar and dangerous world, trying to find a telephone and someone to help them find their mother. Before long, the strangers they encounter take pity on these rail-thin children and call the police. Their mother is eventually found, but Orion and Asta's lives will never be the same. As crazy as it sounds, their bond with their mother and with each other was deep and important. Once it is disrupted, can these two young children ever move past their dysfunctional, neglectful childhoods?

I read this book for my local teacher-rific book club. I am happy I did. This is Jan Elizabeth Watson's first novel. Maine authors tend to write prolifically, though, so I expect that there are more great reads to come!

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