by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Green Angel / 0-439-65878-0
This story of a young girl's loss of her entire family and her own identity, and the subsequent struggle to regain herself in the aftermath of the loss, will no doubt make an impression on anyone. The deep themes of loss and survivor guilt are explored thoroughly, against a backdrop of magical realism.
Somehow, "Green Angel" puts me in mind of "Island of the Blue Dolphins", for the titular character "Green" often seems just as isolated and alone, despite her interactions with her neighbors and village people, largely due to the almost complete lack of dialogue throughout the book. And, like "Island of the Blue Dolphins", Green's survival and grasp on humanity is aided by numerous animals, each of which she gently nurses to health, cherishes, and finally frees, recognizing that being wild is an intrinsic part of *their* characters.
Despite its deep themes and achingly lovely narrative, "Green Angel" will not please all audiences. The novel is extremely short - a little more than 100 pages - and the frequent repetition will enable quick readers to whip through in an hour or so. The novel relies heavily on magical realism, with Green often surviving on little more than a few nuts a day, and with health issues largely determined by the demands of the plot. Characters and themes drift in and out of the story, creating an aching, detached narrative to match Green's dissociation from her pain, but in such a way that may frustrate more literal-minded readers.
"Green Angel" is worth trying, if only for the beauty of the prose and the painful themes contained within, and with such a short time investment to the novel, any reader owes it to themselves to check it out, and approach the novel with an open heart. And if you do read and enjoy "Green Angel", make certain to also read the even better sequel, "Green Witch".
~ Ana Mardoll
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