Monday, December 9, 2019

Book Review: Countdown

Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy #1) Deborah Wiles. 2010. 394 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I am eleven years old, and I am invisible.

Premise/plot: Franny Chapman and her family star in Deborah Wile’s historical coming of age novel. It is set in October 1962 and the world is more than a little anxious. Can nuclear war be avoided?! Can an old friendship be saved? Does Franny’s crush like her back?

My thoughts: I love, love, love this one. I believe this is the third time I’ve read it? I know it is at the very least the second! There are two more books in the series that I have never read. It’s my goal to read both before the year ends.

This is a documentary novel. It blends genres and media. It uses photographs, newspaper headlines and quotes, song lyrics, other quotes (from books), etc. it also includes a series of biographical sketches on key figures of the times.

I love the characters and relationships. Uncle Otts is a particular favorite of mine. I also can appreciate the relationship between Franny and her older sister.

Favorite quotes:

I’ve memorized the geography of every one of those records. “Johnny Angel” has a yellow label, “Twistin’ the Night Away” has a tiny scratch at the beginning edge, and “Runaway,” which is my current favorite, by my favorite singer, Del Shannon, has a heart drawn on the label—by me. Jo Ellen doesn’t know this yet. (76)

There are always scary things happening in the world. There are always wonderful things happening. And it’s up to you to decide how you’re going to approach the you’re going to live in it, and what you’re going to do. (84)

”I’m invisible around here. I could disappear for days and nobody would miss me.” Now it’s Jo Ellen’s time to sigh. “Franny, you’re eleven. That’s the problem in a nutshell.” She pulls an envelope out of her purse. “Everybody feels persecuted when they’re eleven. It will pass.” (85)

I like revival. It’s entertaining. I know almost every hymn in the Methodist hymnal by heart, every verse, and I can play most of them on the piano. Revival lasts two weeks, so we go every night to church, and every night there is tarnation preaching and seventeen verses of “Just As I Am,” until someone walks up to the altar to be saved. Trouble is, Halleluia is a small town, and most everybody in church has already been saved. So unless somebody new shows up, or an older kid is pushed into the aisle by his mother, we just sing and sing that hymn, until my grandmother stands up and ambles in her square shoes up the aisle with a half-exasperated look on her face, and gets saved once again. Mostly she is saving all of us, and she knows we know it. (130)

I am always amazed at how long thirty minutes is when I practice my piano....Now I can play whatever I want. So I pull out Miss Mattie’s Cokesbury Hymnal. It’s old, thin, and brown, and I love everything about it. I love the way it smells, the texture of the pages, and the hymns on every page. I start with my favorites, “In the Garden” and “Love Lifted Me,” which is almost too hard for me. I don’t play them very well—I start and stop a lot, but I don’t care. I sing as I play—I’m a good singer. Soon I move to a new favorite, “Come Thou Fount.” I love the words as much as the tune, so I play every verse, and I sing it loud. (138)

By the glow of my night-light, Uncle Otts says, “There was a time—I wasn’t much older than you are now—when I was sure it was the end of the world.” “Were you afraid?” I ask him. “Oh, yes,” says Uncle Otts. “Very afraid.” “What happened?” “I grew up to become an old man,” says Uncle Otts. “That’s what happened. And that’s what will happen to you, too.” (200)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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