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The Land of Decoration: A Novel Hardcover – March 27, 2012
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more
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[A] mind-bending, soul-stretching, gloriously realized debut…While end-of-time stories are faddish, UK writer Grace McCleen's novel, The Land of Decoration, is one to heed. The first sentence sets the tone for this rapturous, daringly imaginative tale of love, loss, and salvation… (Elle magazine)
McCleen skillfully keeps us in a state of suspense; we root for Judith even while we are aghast at her conclusions and actions… [A]s the advice and instruction Judith receives become increasingly dangerous, the book becomes something even the Bible can't always be: a page turner. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
This extraordinary tale of one little girl's End Times grabbed me by the throat. The Land of Decoration is part social observation and part crazy mysticism, held together by a brutally real story of parent-child love. (Emma Donoghue, author of Room)
Loveable, unique and thrillingly uncategorisable… A story about a small person's small antithesis of a small town full of small-minded people, this is a big-hearted novel. (Chris Cleave, Financial Times)
Gripping, beautiful… [M]akes you gasp with delight…In many ways it's suspense--is Judith going to get hurt?--that keeps you tearing through the pages (be prepared for the complete and total devastation of your social life; once you pick up this novel, you will not be able to do anything until you finish)... This isn't a child like the other children in books--say, the unbelievably smart ones who can lecture on astronomy and rare stamps. This is a regular old child, a loving, confused, tender-hearted little person who is trying, like all of us, to make some sense of out of this life. (Oprah.com pick for “Book of the Week”)
The novel's best moments offer a profound sense of the existential crisis that any believer eventually faces… McCleen also has a good ear for the blessings of comedy -- the little moments of absurdity that children experience as they try to make sense of religion. (Ron Charles, The Washington Post)
Grace McCleen's writing is deep, fantastical and powerful, and she really lets us into the heart of this tender, gentle little girl…A wonderful gen of a debut novel. (The Independent (UK))
A tremendously affecting novel, skillfully and arrestingly written, and one that packs a big emotional punch. (The Sunday Times (UK))
British musician McCleen's debut explores the complexities of love between a widowed father and his daughter…McCleen adroitly combines cinematic momentum with intuitive description in this novel about the consequences of faith and what happens when we believe that we have the power to effectuate change. (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
So memorable…Surprising, affecting, thoughtful and complex, McCleen's novel grows in power the more time you spend with it. (The Guardian (UK))
Extraordinary…like Emma Donoghue (whose "Room" was shortlisted for last year's Booker Prize) McCleen has created a voice which rings true and resonates deep. Bursting with tension and tenderness, this novel is a small miracle in itself. (Daily Mail (UK))
[A] stunning debut.…At its core, it's about the biggest issues a person can encounter--how to confront the unknown, how to negotiate faith and how to be a decent and loving human being. The fact that Grace McCleen is able to address these matters with such subtlety and delicacy is no small miracle itself. (Bookpage)
Which of us, when we were small, didn't fervently wish for -- and frankly believe in -- divine intervention? [The Land of Decoration] paints an affecting and often unsettling portrait of pure faith. B+ (Entertainment Weekly)
Debut author McCleen creates a believable, compelling voice for the youthful narrator, and her portrait of a bereaved father is equally affecting…(a) haunting debut. (Kirkus)
[Grace McCleen] writes with a kind of plaintive lyricism; you ache for Judith, but keep reading, because there's something haunting and addictive about the rhythm of the sentences. (The Seattle Times)
Top Customer Reviews
As the factory where her father works goes on strike and he crosses the picket line, and the bullying begins to pass into more dangerous territory, Judith's thoughts take on darker and darker tones. She doesn't know what to do about the things God is telling her or about the lack of faith in their fundamentalist worldview that her father begins to exhibit.Read more ›
The narrator, Judith, is a ten year old girl, both precocious and deluded, obsessed with creating her own "Land of Decoration" (the Promised Land according to the book of Ezekiel) out of scraps and doodads, some made from past belongings of her deceased mother.
Discovering that events such as a snowstorm that she shapes in her imaginary world manifest in the external world, and believing that she hears the voice of God commanding her, Judith becomes convinced that she can create miracles. But the God she worships and obeys is a wrathful God, a God of vengeance rather than compassion.
Judith's father, rigidly evangelistic, and consumed with his own sadness and conflicts, is unresponsive to his daughter's needs, and angered by her overactive imagination. "I don't want to hear any more about this," he repeatedly tells her. Eventually, the bully Neil Lewis who threatens and terrifies her at school,
torments her father as well, leading to an eventual showdown.
Clearly, THE LAND OF DECORATION is not a light read, and is frequently painful. But the author Grace McCleen brilliantly conveys the experience of Judith, who struggles with such determination to make sense of the hostile world in which she lives.Read more ›
McCleen begins the story and executes it quite well with character build and intense imagery, so much so, that my dissatisfaction didn't appear till the very end. It's as if, she suddenly became tired with the story and wanted a simple exit. Throughout the book, the story continuously builds upon itself and then abruptly takes a wrong turn and ends. Whereas I enjoyed 3/4s of the book, McCleen's choice of how to end was so weak and undeserving, that it cast a dark shadow over the entire novel.
The book is told from 10-year-old Judith's perspective, giving rise to comparisons to the extraordinary novel ROOM. The stories are totally different, but the power of using a narrator who believes and interprets things differently, and perhaps only knows part of the story has the same effect, and it's powerful.
Judith and her father's religion is portrayed as a conservative legalistic belief (and though it's not named, I do believe that it's more of a religious sect than true Christianity). That said, people who are not of the Christian faith probably lump them all together. Their faith is shown to be real, in my opinion, and is not mocked in the telling of the story, which was important to me.
That said, there is a character of God who speaks to Judith, and it's here that the Believer would have to interpret this storyline. Is Judith crazy? Or has God really chosen her to act out on His behalf? I'm not sure that the intent is completely clear, but if I hold true to what my faith teaches me, I know what side I come down on. There are also things that this "God" says that are truly blasphemous.
This is where the child's POV does it's work. We only know what Judith truly believes.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was surprised to find a child narrator but was very soon under her spell.
Judith lives with her father. It is telling that she only ever calls him father. Read more
I didn't really enjoy this book - it was a choice in my book group - It was reasonably well written except for a few Americanisms, which I found strange, but there was every 'set... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Bulmer, Owen
It reads with the pace of a thriller and touches on religion, morality, and the nature of metaphor. You can read it on the beach, you can read it for a paper in school, you can... Read morePublished on May 8, 2014 by Ingemund Malipon
Interesting story about extremely devout and confused Christian dad raising a daughter after mother died. Sad story but worth reading. Bullying issues addressed.Published on December 26, 2013 by Janet B
This book has some lovely aspects to it in that the author manages to get into the brain of a young girl. Read morePublished on September 21, 2013 by Mrs J D Castleden
Interesting, unusual novel, narrated by a precocious 10-year-old girl who lives with her fanatically religious father (they seem to be similar to Jehovah's Witnesses, but there... Read morePublished on September 7, 2013 by Sandra L. Etemad
Grace McCleen's poetic writing takes you to the vivid and disturbing world within a religious cult as experienced by ten year old Judith. Read morePublished on August 11, 2013 by Neanie
Ten-year old Judith is being brought up by her forbidding father, a strict member of an un-named religious sect believing in Armageddon. Read morePublished on July 29, 2013 by SueKich
In The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen a ten year old girl, Judith, creates everything in her land of decoration from bits of scraps and rubbish. Read morePublished on June 16, 2013 by She Treads Softly