BOOK REVIEWS

A Certain Strain of Peculiar Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2016-05-07 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 5 user ratings
ISBN:0763630098
LANGUAGE:English

"I would whole-heartedly recommend the book "A Certain Strain of Peculiar", by Gigi Amateau. It is especially suited for preteen and younger teenaged girls. However, I am an adult in my mid-thirties and I still enjoyed it. It is a coming-of-age story, but doesn't necessarily come off that way. What I mean by that is the author creates an interesting enough story that it doesn't fit into the cliché coming-of-age genre.

The story is about a 13-year old girl, Mary, who has been mercilessly teased and taunted at school. She has dealt with this peer abuse by withdrawing into herself and suffers from panic attacks. It is a realistic look at how cruel kids can be. As the school year ends, she tries to convince her mom to move back to her mom's home town to live with her Ayma (grandmother). When her mother refuses to consider it, Mary takes matters into her own hands and runs away.

The summer she spends with her Ayma is a summer of healing. Not everything that happens is good, but Mary is able to reinvent herself, without the stigma of her past. It is a novel about that self-discovery. I especially enjoyed the book because it was not always predictable. I am glad that I took the time to read this book and suggest for the teenaged girl as well as some adults.
" said.

"Thirteen-year-old Mary Harold Woods lies at the bottom of her school's pecking order, getting kicked in the heart with cruel insults and every other kind of verbal abuse her classmates can invent. Even her ex-best friend joins the massacre. Mary can never seem to find the strength to fight back, instead turning inward to hide. It doesn't help when the panic attacks dominate her mind and body; she can't breathe, and fear desperately takes control. Mary begs her mother to move in with her grandmother, Ayma, who lives on Wren Mountain in Alabama. But her mother refuses to live there again. So Mary takes matters into her own hands.

Slipping out in the middle of the night, Mary takes the old truck and drives herself the 600-plus miles to her grandmother's farm. Her mother gives in and decides she can give it a try, with a few conditions of course. One is that Mary must have her own cow to care for, to which she readily agrees. So the following day, the farm manager and next-door neighbor, Bud, buys Mary her first cow. Helping Bud on the farm is the start of a new feeling of belonging for Mary. She begins to build up both an outer and inner strength that helps her blossom for the first time in forever.

Mary even finds a new best friend. Bud's daughter, Dixie, is two years younger, and is a bit different in that she acts like a horse. Ever since Dixie's mom left, Dixie refuses to speak English, and instead neighs and paws the ground. But Mary accepts Dixie for who she is, and vice-versa. The summer glides along peacefully, and Mary begins to heal. But then school starts.

Although the other kids seem content to leave Mary alone at first, they do torment Dixie unendingly. Mary decides she won't hide any longer and stands up to protect Dixie. The bullies pull her into a fistfight, and Mary gets suspended. She struggles to find peace within herself and in the community, and to make the right choices; hiding doesn't work, but neither does fighting. She must find a way to love herself before she loses herself completely.

Gigi Amateau is the person responsible for this tender and heart-touching novel (with a bit of help from her editors and publisher). Right from page one, Amateau reaches out and bonds with the reader, sharing the pain of trying to accept oneself and find acceptance in the community. It is easy to believe in and relate to Mary and the other colorful characters. Amateau imparts the importance of building a support group with friends and family, to get through the tough times and to share in the good ones. She also does an amazing job of sharing nature's beauty and peace with her audience, and captures the spirit of small town living, where everyone knows everyone's business, creating a bit of humor in the story.

Readers will definitely want to keep a close eye on this talented writer, whose previous books include CHANCEY OF THE MAURY RIVER and CLAIMING GEORGIA TATE.

--- Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman, author of FINDING MY LIGHT, GHOSTS OF THE UPPER PENINSULA and THE BLACK POND
" said.

"Mary Harold Woods is peculiar. Because she is so peculiar, she is often picked on by her classmates, and she doesn't feel like she belongs in Virginia. However, there is one place that Mary Harold has always felt like she belongs: Wren, Alabama.

Wren is where her beloved Grandma, Ayma, lives. However, Mary Harold's mother, Tabitha (Bye), won't go back. So it's up to Mary Harold to somehow get to Wren so she can figure out who she is and where she belongs in the world.

Once in Wren, Mary Harold works as a farmhand along with the friendly Bud, who has some past history with Bye. And there's another surprise in Wren: another girl just as peculiar as Mary Harold herself. Dixie is odd, and Mary Harold takes it upon herself to stand up for Dixie and protect her, something no one ever did for Mary Harold.

Through this coming-of-age and self-discovery story, Gigi Amateau provides a quaint and peaceful setting where a lone and lonely girl finds herself. Any reader can relate to the sense of belonging that Mary Harold struggles with in the beginning of the novel.

A CERTAIN STRAIN OF PECULIAR is recommended for all teenage girls who went through the odd phase of coming into your body and personality, becoming who you are today.

Reviewed by: Steph
" said.

"Could have been a light sweet story of a single mom & daughter moving "home". Unfortunately, the book gets weird and gets weird often. I would hope an experienced editor would have guided Ms. Amateau to a better finished product." said.

"I love Amateau's work, and A Certain Strain of Peculiar did not disappoint. This author has a knack for creating interesting characters, and once I started, I couldn't put the story down. I really loved the positive relations among three generations of women, and while Amateau takes up serious subjects, she also affirms the power of human relationships to transform us. I know some readers were thrown by the dream-like episodes, but I found these elements enhanced the story. I think that sometimes, our dreams, our imaginations, and our hopes blend with reality in surprising ways, and sometimes the past--both our past and the past before we came--influences us in ways expected and unexpected. I think these blends are what the author depicts with the dreamlike elements." said.

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