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on July 24, 2012
Disappointment comes to mind when describing Grace McCleen's "The Land of Decoration". The book centers around a young girl, Judith, who's bleak relationship with her widowed father and ties to a religious group that believes "The End" is within a few years' reach, leave Judith as an outcast and lonely child. As a means to escape daily bullying and emotionally connect, Judith begins building her own land in her room each night. It's one night in particular that starts the story off, where Judith wishes for a snow storm and suddenly the town is knee-deep in thick snow, closing down school and the local factories. From here till the end of the book, Judith begins to believe her wishes and decoration of her miniature town are the cause of the town's random occurrences and problems.

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.
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on January 23, 2013
Beautiful writing which captures the devotion and confusion of a ten-year-old girl being raised by her widowed father.

Grace McCLeen drops the reader into this child's head flawlessly. The young girl's blind acceptance and participation in a father's unusual and isolating religious beliefs. Her withdrawal into the sanctuary of her room, into the miniaturized world of her creation, a place of Biblical references and origins, a place to be safe from incomprehensible ridicule and bullying. The reader understands why the little girl could be regarded as an outcast, but the child comes to slivers of this understanding in heartbreaking half steps. Each one adds a new dusting of disillusion and enlightenment, part of the mixed blessing everyone experiences on the road through life.

McCleen tells the story using language and imagery appropriate for the child, yet each scene and observation builds toward the whole. Others may influence our options and attitudes, but in the end - Armageddon being another of the author's artful symbols - we are each unto ourselves.
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on June 24, 2012
I was so worried about this little girl, and I so wanted to slap her poor tormented father! Completely engaging characters. An exploration of a faith we all know about, but know nothing. This read was disturbing, captivating. Layers of meaning behind Judith's paper world.
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on June 2, 2012
Not quite what I expected, but it did get me thinking. Not a bad book overall. Creative story line. I would be interested to see the writer's experience with religion to find out if it affected how she chose to write this book.
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on June 9, 2013
This is a story about a 10 year old girl and her father. While the author makes good attempts at inserting some light humor, on behalf of the girl's thoughts and worries, it hardly draws the reader into a happy place. The story is set in England I presume about 20 years ago. While I was somewhat drawn in to the clarity of a ten year old girl's intimate narrative, after 300 pages, I find it hard to believe the author's choice to bestow such adult thoughts and writing to the child. There is a strong vein of radical religion running through this story, and although it provides a constructive side note, the reader is burdened with the same dreadful beating drum that ultimately brings closure to the tale.

It seems the author would have done well to pull us, and the child out of the miry clay a bit sooner in the story, rather than drag us to the threshold of Armageddon.
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on September 21, 2013
This book has some lovely aspects to it in that the author manages to get into the brain of a young girl. However, I've not finished it yet and only find that I pick it up periodically, read a few more pages and then put it down again. Is not a page turner. My other criticism is that the author portrays Jesus believers as oddballs. It would seem that the entire congregation in her church either smell, look weird or behave oddly. It put me off reading it really. I may (one day) finish it and re-submit a review, but I think it may be a long time coming...
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on November 5, 2014
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 piece' in there. The single parent coping with their own grief, the neglected child retreating to a world of their own, the bully who got his comeuppance, the understanding teacher and the happy ending. All a bit too pat for me.
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on February 22, 2013
A wonderful book of creative writing. McCleen is a beautiful writer, and the story line is fascinating. Oh to have the
imagination of this little girl, the main character, and to be able to lose one's self in your own creativity as she so
wonderfully does.
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on October 22, 2012
A thought provoking story about the power of faith and love of family. Enjoyed book until the end - disappointed in the ending of the book. I hate an ending that leaves you hanging and really not knowing what happens to the characters.
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on April 28, 2013
Novel was good until the final quarter. I didn't like the direction the writer took to undermine everything in the first 3 quarters. O.k. but didn't like the implications of God and the Land of Decoration in the life of Judith.
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