Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gut reaction to Okay for Now

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt will be released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 5th, 2011. It follows Doug's life during the Vietnam war. Doug's oldest brother is in the army, his next oldest brother is a bully, and his father is the biggest bully of them all. When Doug's family moves to the Catskills, he seeks refuge in the library where he discovers a book of Audubon's birds. Though he protests that he is no artist, Doug itches to start drawing. Between Audubon's book and a delivery job for the local deli, Doug manages to have a life - an escape- from his family and it becomes his mission to retrieve the missing Audubon pages that the city has been selling off.

So I started Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now yesterday and finished it this morning. And it blew me away. Each aspect of the story was beautifully woven into the rest. Audubon's birds were incredibly effective at pulling together the story- effective due to the emotional descriptions paired with brief formal analysis (composition, balance, etc). I'm always interested to see how writers depict the visual arts; often they get it staggeringly wrong, but Schmidt manages to explain principals of design that can later be translated and expanded upon by Doug to explain other events in his life.

For the first half of the book I was a little worried that there would be too much depressing realism for me to deal with (the world has enough terrible things happening in it for me to constantly be reading about fictional ones as well) but I was intrigued by Mrs. Windermere (the eccentric playwright to who Doug delivers groceries) and honestly, I needed to know about the birds. Would the book be whole again? (Though I must say, having Doug create one of the pages was pretty obvious from early on.)

I like books with, if not a happy ending, at least a settled one. I love that Schmidt left the book so open-ended. Yes, he resolved aspects of Doug's life that need closure, but he also ended with hope tempered by the reality that sometimes, no matter what you want, things don't always turn out the way you want them.
And no, I'm not giving you more information about the ending- I wouldn't want to ruin it for you, now would I?

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