Sunday, 25 November 2012
Review: The Reluctant Hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams
It's three days till Dodie finishes school forever, and her life is in chaos. Not because of school, but because her parents have gone missing and she's discovered that they've been hiding something in their basement. Something that millions of people would love to get their hands on - including some very Bad Guys. Now Dodie must transport The Thing from Melbourne to Sydney with her little sister, an acquaintance and two strangers in tow... and the Bad Guys on their tail.
I'll be honest: I didn't think I was going to like The Reluctant Hallelujah. A couple of reviews from Goodreads friends suggested it really wasn't my cup of tea, especially after I found out what The Thing is. It sounded bizarre and like the book was about shock value more than anything else. But I already had the book on my shelf, and so when I was looking to clear space on there, I decided to read it so I could get rid of it. I would have just gotten rid of it, except I was mildly curious about how The Thing would pan out, and it's a pretty small book so it was only a small investment in terms of time.
Boy, am I glad I didn't just throw it in the donation bag. Perhaps because I already knew what The Thing was, it didn't blindside or shock me as it did with others, and I think this helped me to enjoy the book more. I already knew the weirdness I was heading towards, so I was happy to go along for the ride. And really, when you think about it, The Thing isn't any less realistic than say, vampires and werewolves falling in love with teenagers. I mean no offence by that if you know what The Thing is; it's just the way I was able to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the book.
While The Thing was the driving force behind the road trip (ahem), and faith was a central theme of the novel, the most interesting part to me was Dodie's own personal journey, and her relationships with the other characters. I loved Dodie's voice; it was distinct and smart, but still very real. All of the characters felt authentic to me; they weren't perfect, but that was part of their appeal. There was one little part that irked me: when Dodie comments she's glad to have a guy with her, because he can be strong and read maps. Generalising, much? But that was a really minor disappointment in an otherwise gorgeous book.
The Reluctant Hallelujah has a bit of everything: family drama, mystery, road trip fun, suspense, romance, humour, whimsy and oh, so much heartbreak. It's been awhile since a book affected me so much and made me ugly cry, and I think it's because I felt so connected to the characters. That, and Gabrielle Williams' beautiful writing. The symbolism in the end, and the way the story connected back to The Thing, made it all the more powerful. Despite the fact I'm generally a fan of happy endings, I appreciated the way Dodie was still kind of struggling towards the end, and grappling with issues of faith, love and identity. It was nice to see that she was on her way to healing, but it was even better that everything wasn't neatly tied up in a cheesy package. It felt real, which is something, considering the very surreal plot. Although The Thing isn't usually my thing, I'm so glad I gave The Reluctant Hallelujah a chance - it's an absolutely beautiful book.
Published: February 2012, Penguin
Get It: Bookworld