I read lots of books. Sometimes I feel like I read too many books. My TBR pile is teetering beside my bed and so I read and read and read and still I can’t keep up with everything that is newest and hottest and most-hyped. I worry that sometimes I don’t take as much out of a book because I’m ever-racing to read more and more since there is simply so much that is exciting and life will not be long enough to cram in all the stories I hope to read. When you read this much, it is all the more obvious when you find an author who is truly gifted, who rises above many others who might be able to tell a good story and create reasonably memorable characters but who just don’t have that magic something that shoots the story straight into your heart. Beth Kephart has it. She has that magic something. Her most recent book, House of Dance, made me slow right down and appreciate truly fine writing. You must read this book, especially if you’re interested in style as much as a satisfying or clever story.
Rosie lives with her mother, but she doesn’t see much of her. Her mom seems to be content to spend most of her time working at her low-paying job, in the company of her sleazy boss, existing mostly in the background of Rosie’s day-to-day life. When summer arrives, Rosie’s friends are busy with work and it isn’t long before Rosie becomes busy herself, looking in on her sick grandfather everyday, keeping him company and getting his house in order as his illness worsens. As she organizes and sifts through the piles of his belongings and keepsakes, Rosie discovers whispers of her grandfather’s past, his memories and one-time loves. She finds that music was a big part of his life with her grandmother, who was a dancer and a dreamer. This inspires Rosie to spend her savings on ballroom lessons, and this choice brings her closer to her grandfather than ever before. House of Dance is the story of one summer, the relationship between grandfather and granddaughter, and Rosie’s efforts to bring some of her grandfather’s memories and dreams back to life.
You only need to read a chapter of this book to appreciate Kephart’s talent. I’ve heard lots of writers’ styles described as “poetic,” and I think you could say that Kephart would belong in that crowd. What’s exceptional about her is that she writes in a poetic way, with such attention to putting just the right words in just the right place, and yet this never gets in the way of the story of character development. I never once felt that the language distanced me from the story, or slowed things down, rather the descriptive passages pulled me in deeper and made me feel the story as if I was a part of it. I never had the sense that the author was showing off, or trying to be as poetic as possible to seem deep and insightful. This is just the way Kephart writes, and it’s gorgeous. You’ll feel just as lucky to have read House of Dance as you might upon hearing a jazz tune sneak out an open window in summer. It’s just right. This novel is full of the scent and sound and heat of summer, and also of longing for the past and for more time in the present too. I can’t wait to read Beth Kephart’s next book, Nothing but Ghosts, due out in June 2009.
Beth’s first YA title, Undercover, is one of the recommended reads this month at readergirlz. It’s another beauty. And speaking of readergirlz, here’s a video featuring one of the readergirlz divas, Melissa Walker, sharing her thoughts on House of Dance. She loved it too: