I love stories with a magical element that takes place in the “real” world. Perhaps that’s why “magical realism” appeals to me so much – writers like Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. So when I told our local librarian this, and she pulled The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue off the shelf, I was pretty excited to find new writers in this style (can it be called a style?).
The book tells the story of Henry Day, a seven-year-old boy who is stolen by the changelings (faeries, hobgoblins – pick your name of choice) and replaced with one of their own who has made himself look just like them. The book is structured with alternating chapters, one from the perspective of the changeling made boy living in Henry Day’s life and one from the perspective of Aniday, the boy who becomes changeling. The intertwined perspective allows the reader to develop sympathy with both boys while still scorning each “world’s” view and interaction with the other.
I really enjoyed Donohue’s use of the changeling myth to explore the ways we all – at least I think we all – feel unlike everyone else around us. I can distinctly remember thinking that the reason I felt so alone, even in the midst of my family and friends, as a child was because right now I was just watching my life on a big projection screen, God at my side, while everyone was else actually living theirs. Soon, I would get to come to earth and then I could change what I wanted and really be connected with everyone. I never did really think through whether or not those other people would then just be watching a movie of their own lives then. All I knew was that this idea seemed to help me feel less alone.
The story of these two boys also does a wonderful job of blending together myth and reality while giving us believable, culpable characters who we love even when they are distant. Henry Day’s father, for example, is complex and deep, even though we never learn his name.
The other element of this novel that strikes me as well-developed and articulated is the way that these two characters’ stories start out very intertwined and then spread apart before finally resolving again into an intimate connection between the two boys who are neither who they are or who they were (again, here, magic recreates reality.)
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