Eleanor and Esmerelda are identical twins with a secret language all their own, inseparable until a terrible accident claims Esme’s life. Eleanor’s family is left in tatters: her mother retreats inward, seeking comfort in bottles; her father reluctantly abandons ship. Eleanor is forced to grow up more quickly than a child should, and becomes the target of her mother’s growing rage.
Years pass, and Eleanor’s painful reality begins to unravel in strange ways. The first time it happens, she walks through a school doorway, and finds herself in a cornfield, beneath wide blue skies. When she stumbles back into her own world, time has flown by without her. Again and again, against her will, she falls out of her world and into other, stranger ones, leaving behind empty rooms and worried loved ones.
One fateful day, Eleanor leaps from a cliff and is torn from her world altogether. She meets a mysterious stranger, Mea, who reveals to Eleanor the weight of her family’s loss. To save her broken parents, and rescue herself, Eleanor must learn how deep the well of her mother’s grief and her father’s heartbreak truly goes. Esmerelda’s death was not the only tragic loss in her family’s fragmented history, and unless Eleanor can master her strange new abilities, it may not be the last.
Initially, I was honestly only drawn to this book because of its cover. Before I had even read the description of it, I knew I wanted to read the story and I’m glad I did.
Reading ELEANOR is like getting lost inside a fairy tale, though the story begins normally enough. The beginning of the book is dedicated to the usual, and in this case intriguing, background information. It spans 20 years and immediately pulls the reader into the lives of Agnes, Eleanor, and their families. Perhaps it is for this reason, because of the ordinary start, that the fantastical elements are so believable. Gurley’s descriptions of what is known as “the rift” and of the other realms Eleanor finds herself pulled into are so vivid, so seamlessly integrated into the narrative, that I never once found myself wondering whether Eleanor was insane and in need of a psychiatrist. It all felt real. It felt like I was a small child again, being read a bedtime story.
That is not to say that this is a simple or childlike book. On the contrary, there is much tragic loss, depression, heartbreak, and emotional destruction to be found in this story. The matriarchal line has been emotionally broken for several generations and it is up to teenage Eleanor to find a way to heal that rift. She must do what I’m sure many of us wish we could do–she must go back to the start and begin again, hoping to create a better, happier family than the one we were introduced to in the beginning.
Gurley has a knack for easily drawing his readers into the fantastical world he has created. He also makes it possible for readers to root for a happily ever after for the characters, despite all of their flaws and shortcomings. I definitely recommend you pick up a copy of this book when it goes on-sale in January to find out for yourself whether Eleanor is successful or if her family is doomed to continue living their tragedies.
*I was given an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The synopsis and cover photo were taken from Amazon.com.