Eleanor is a beautiful book in many ways, not just in the lyrical prose of author Jason Gurley, but also in its design. The cover art and interior illustrations are beautiful. Even the fonts, the initial caps, the dingbats that grace the pages are beautiful. It is a work of love from beginning to end which is a good thing, because at its core, it is a book about love, a special love that can conquer time itself.
There are two Eleanors in this novel. The first is a young woman who had been a potential Olympic swimmer before love and marriage and a baby carriage changed her course—a woman who feels trapped by her life when she becomes pregnant with her second child, even though she loves and is loved. She thinks, though, she has lost her way and perhaps she has. One day she swims out into the ocean and disappears, leaving her husband and young daughter, Agnes, behind.
The other is her granddaughter, a child whose life is marred by the death of her identical twin, Esmeralda. Her mother, Agnes, collapses under the weight of her grief, torn between blaming herself and blaming Eleanor for surviving. As often happens when a child dies, the marriage falls apart and Eleanor only sees her father on weekends and spends her time taking more care of her mother than her mother does of her.
These tragedies set the stage for the story and make the first few chapters of the book heartbreaking. In fact, much of the story is heartbreaking, but you sense that that something is going to happen. After all, why else write the story?
The bright spot in her life is Jack, her best friend and the one person who knows that something very strange is happening to Eleanor. She disappears. She returns, but not as she left. Now, Jack does not know exactly what is happening, but then neither does Eleanor and all we know is that Eleanor has caught the attention of entities who seem outside of space and time. I confess to struggling a bit, balking at the storyline of The Keeper, thinking it out of place, but then it came to make sense, too, in a strange and wonderful way. And that is all I will tell you because part of the beauty of this book is the confusion and the wonder of discovery as you learn what is happening, though I think most readers will know what is going on before it is spelled out on the page.
Gurley is masterful in creating a sense of place. The punishing rain, the relentless ocean, the oceanfront town subsisting on tourism, and the lush, dark forests of Oregon. As an Oregonian, there is recognition of the emotions conjured by the environment such as the hypnotic pull of the ocean. Even when he creates dreamscapes, his writing is powerfully evocative.
I give this book 4 stars which is high praise considering the book is very metaphysical—and no matter what it may be labeled in some places, it is very definitely not science fiction. Of course, if someone has labeled it metaphysical, I would never have read it and that would be a shame. Eleanor is about the bonds of love and family and the special magic love can manifest. It is about loss and resilience and having the courage to risk everything.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.