What Are We Reading?: Piece of Me, by Steve Stred
4/5 Ominous Footprints in the Snow
Give me the short version:
To see her family again Kari must undertake a perilous, mythic journey ... and survive her guide.
Mr Stred returns to the desolate landscapes and tortured souls we all love with Kari, a woman isolated and labouring to survive in the wilderness. A woman mourning the loss of her husband and child in a world overrun by beasts.
Kari is a great protagonist: pitted against a largely male cast of men and monsters, all of whom harbor their own plans for her, she knows and relies on her own beliefs and talents.
I think the only thing missing from this story for me concerned how rapidly events progressed once the action got kicked off (from about chapter four onward). With so much happening on an epic scale, and with large chunks being recounted via backstory, I felt Piece of Me could have benefited from a little of what filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki calls ma: a silence, a lack of action that allows the audience to soak in the moment and fully experience emotion without being rushed along.
I would also happily read some of the quick moments and flashbacks expanded into vignette stories or even novels of their own: Kari and Aatto's journey to find a home of their own, for example, was so fascinating and fraught.
"She got to the top of the hill and was transfixed. Before her an entire river valley spread out like a painting she'd once discovered at a restaurant near the city market. The river flowed through the middle of a large plain. Off in the distance the mountain range stood guard, keeping the northern fields to themselves.
She found herself admiring the view, slowly moving her head from left to right, panning the horizon, awestruck at how beautiful nature could be. That she lived so close to this place, yet had never been here made her heart ache. Just how much life was she missing out on by staying planted at the cabin, hoping beyond hope that they'd return."