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Counting Stars

Review

Counting Stars



David Almond is the author of several critically acclaimed books,
including the marvelous SKELLIG, about things with wings; the
mysterious KIT'S WILDERNESS, about things deep underground; and the
peculiar HEAVEN'S EYES, about runaway orphans finding family in the
presence of a simple, innocent girl. Almond's books are filled with
metaphysical darkness and mystery. If anyone has ever wondered
where his ideas come from, COUNTING STARS provides clues as it is a
collection of short stories based on his boyhood growing up
Catholic in northern England.


One in a large family of siblings, Almond experienced several
debilitating blows early in life. The loss of a sister haunts the
book, along with the untimely death of his father. These events
lend a melancholy tone to COUNTING STARS. Readers of his other work
will recognize the mines, the spirits of lost loved ones and a
village simpleton, who claims to see visions of the Virgin
Mary.


COUNTING STARS is darker than Almond's previous books. It is
possible that some readers may be upset or confused by stories that
have disturbing themes beyond death and displacement. One story,
"The Baby," is about the village seamstress who keeps an aborted
fetus sealed in a jar. Another, "Loosa Fine," is about a mentally
and emotionally disturbed girl who claims to see visions of the
Virgin Mary and is sold as a prostitute by one of her guardians.
This story is made more disturbing by the similarities Loosa has,
especially in her speech patterns, to the character called Heaven's
Eyes in Almond's book of the same title.


However, COUNTING STARS also has several stories that sparkle with
light and whim amidst the darkness. "The Subtle Body" uses the
young protagonist's interest in transcendental meditation and the
metaphor of astral body projection to describe the feeling of a
first kiss. "Where Your Wings Were" describes a boy's dreams of
buxom angels who carry him to heaven to hear the sound of God
snoring. These stories encompass the lighter side of a cosmology of
things unseen.


The pieces in meditate on memory, innocence and loss. Almond's tone
of personal and spiritual exploration puts this book in the company
of classics like A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James
Joyce and Ray Bradbury's idyllic elegy to growing up in small town
America, DANDELION WINE.


Well-written and poignant, COUNTING STARS is not for everyone but
would certainly interest those who are curious about the battery of
Almond's work and who are ready to, in his own words, "listen to
the stories, that for an impossible afternoon hold back the coming
of dark."


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Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood on October 18, 2011

Counting Stars
by David Almond

  • Publication Date: October 14, 2003
  • Genres: Nonfiction, Short Stories
  • Mass Market Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf
  • ISBN-10: 0440418267
  • ISBN-13: 9780440418269