Revising Leah

December 13, 2008

The Little Book of Earthquakes and Volcanoes

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 1:45 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

ev0002Another one of the books that Leah Nells reads over the course of the novel arrived on my doorstep the other day. It’s The Little Book of Earthquakes and Volcanoes, and here’s how I described it in the novel:

Sitting on top of the notebook was one of the books Mrs. Nells had bought for her daughter at the garage sale the week before. It was titled The Little Book of Earthquakes and Volcanoes, and it was just that — a little book, not even 200 pages, that would be easy for her to carry on her first day of school, but it was still long enough that it would provide several days’ worth of reading. Leah didn’t know whether she would find time to read her book today since she didn’t know how busy her classes would be, but knowing that the book would be with her was a comfort. It represented a link to her home: a reminder of the security of her bedroom — something familiar in an unfamiliar place. For now, though, the book sat idle on top of her notebook.

The book is even shorter than I expected — barely 150 pages (Amazon’s website claims that it is 192 pages long, but I don’t know where that number is coming from. The last page of the book is page 156.). It’s just as small as I suggested in the novel, and it is also exactly the kind of book that Leah would read.

This book illustrates something about how I sometimes use Leah’s choice of reading of material to symbolize the mental/emotional states that she is in at different points in the novel. The earthquakes book is perfect for her to read on the first day of school because the first day of school is always a cataclysmic event and because Leah spends much of the day rocked by her own bodily earthquakes: the nervous trembling that grips her from time to time. Indeed, the first sentence of the book could be a metaphor for Leah herself:

However still the Earth’s surface may seem at times, it is actually seething with activity, much of it driven by the intense heat of the inner layers of the Earth.

Leah Nells may seem quiet and dull and uninteresting on the outside, but beneath the surface she’s just as complex and deep as anyone.

Of course, it’s dangerous to interpret too much into my choice of books for Leah to read. Some of them offer more commentary on her character than others, but they’re one of those little details that are easy to miss but which, I think, add a lot to the story.

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