I recommend this book to you, dear reader, for what it’s worth. It is poetic and something of the musicality of the writing, and the main character Penelope, a piano player, comes through the words themselves. It is a song. And like a song, it makes you cry so easily, it feels like a trick, but one that you love.
But I want to talk zeitgeist or collective unconsciousness or whatever you call it when it’s related to Art. I feel like so many books have to be written for the right one to come forward, it is like all the sperm swimming towards the egg. Penelope is named for the wife of Odysseus by her father and there is a subplot where the Dunbar boys (her sons, they are magnificent) name their pets after various characters from Homer’s The Odyssey.
In Sugar Shack, there is a similar sub-plot: Cutter, the sea slave, is obsessed with The Odyssey, which he regularly finds and steals. I don’t want to give too much away, but the Trojan Horse myth is also a hint. I wrote all of this while Zusak was writing his book – the proof is on-line. How does this happen? But it must happen.
Near the end of the novel, Bridge of Clay, the character Matthew, the oldest Dunbar boy and the narrator of the story, writes, “I’m not sure can ever explain it, or have a hope or a Je-sus Christ. God, how do I get this right. So all I can do is punch harder here, to give you it all as it was:”(579)
It is the call of every Artist. Every Novelist at least. All I can say to Zusak is bravo.