Monday, September 26, 2011

Broken Bones, A Peggy Henderson Adventure, By Gina McMurchy-Barber- Review

When Broken Bones first came to my attention I noticed two things about it right away.  It takes place in Golden B.C., and its about archeology. 

Now when I was thirteen my dad started dating a woman who lived on a communal acreage up in the kootenays (just outside of Silverton in fact); and the eclectic community up there, coupled with the breath taking scenery left me with enough strange tales to write my own book.  Bathtubs on back porches, outhouses with no doors, picnic brunches at 7am where we ate pancakes with chop sticks, and did I mention the nudy beaches and the pie pot luck at the outdoor kitchen?  It was certainly a learning experience for a prairie city girl like myself.  However, outside of the endless array of non-traditional toilets, I loved it and still do (on the very rare occasion that I still get out there).  The idea that this story was going to throw a 12 year old girl into Golden without warning seemed almost to good to be true.

I had not read the previous Peggy Henderson Adventure, Reading the Bones, so I was new to Peggy.  Thus I have to say, some of my initial impressions of her might not be the same if I had read the series as it was intended.
From Dundurn Press:
A vandalized burial in an abandoned pioneer cemetery brings 12-year-old Peggy Henderson and her elderly archaeologist friend Eddy to Golden, British Columbia, to excavate. The town dates back to the 1880s when most of the citizens were tough and rowdy miners and railway workers who rarely died of old age. Since the wooden burial markers disintegrated long ago, Peggy and Eddy have no way of knowing the dead man’s identity. But when Eddy discovers the vertebrae at the base of the skull are crushed, a sure sign the cause of death was hanging, they have their first clue. Peggy’s tendency to make quick judgments about others leads her to the conclusion that only bad people are hanged, so the man in the burial must have gotten what he deserved. Hoping to learn more about him that proves her beliefs, she is soon digging through dusty old newspapers at the small-town museum. It’s there that Peggy learns that sometimes good people do bad things.
The story is fast paced, and it gets off the ground really quite quickly, however my initial impression of Peggy was that her voice didn't seem 12 to me, it felt a lot younger.  I have to admit it's been awhile since I've hung out with a twelve year old, but when you compare her voice to say Harry Potter (in book two) or Percy Jackson (also in the second book), I felt like her voice seemed more around 9 then 12.  Twelve is that tricky tween period, and I could be wrong, but I don't feel like she would be saying things like:
I was beginning to think she'd split her beam... or cracked her noggin... or flipped her lid 
So for the first part of the book her voice didn't seem believable to me. 

I really enjoyed the cross over of the story from William Maguire in the past and Peggy and Eddy's excavation.  The use of the newspaper articles and then the story from William's perspective was a nice combination.  It also really nicely illustrated a little know bit of Canadian history talking about the mining and the mining towns in the mountains which were notoriously dangerous.

Since I was just a year older than Peggy the first time I went out there and was also very interested in history and archeology at the time I felt like I could really relate to the story in some ways.  Her impressions of the town, it's strangeness to her and the discovery of some of Canada's mining history were very familiar,  the ghost town of Sandon left a huge impression on me, so I could see how her graveyard would be fascinating for her.  However I feel like a major opportunity was missed.  My experiences out in the Kootenay region at that age were sooo colourful and crazy that Peggy's adventure out there seemed staid in comparison.

By the end of the book I was on board with the story and enjoying it's strange little twists and turns, but I have to say it wasn't as unusual or as Canadian in flavour as I had been expecting when I picked it up so I was somewhat disappointed in it.  So if you haven't had a colourful Kootenay stay and gloried in the eclectic arts/hippies/loggers community for any length of time, then chances are you may enjoy this story a bit more than me.  But just as an aside, what are you waiting for already? Make your next vacation a Kootenay one, you will not regret it!

Broken Bones, by Gina McMurchy-Barber
Published by Dundurn Press, June 2011
Buy Broken Bones on Amazon
or Buy Reading the Bones (the first book) on Amazon

1 comment:

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