I bought The Changeling Garden in Neenah, Wisconsin, at my friend Tina’s PAPERBACK BOOK EXCHANGE. Which is a funny name for her shop because it’s a beautiful store with lots of lovely hardbacks and paperbacks on multiple subjects standing tall and proud on shelves stretching above your head, not one of those sad places with chest high shelves full of well-thumbed Penguin Classics lying sideways.
Although a book did fall on my head while I was there, so maybe there’s something to be said for chest-high shelves, Tina?
ANYWAY, Garden has a little bit of everything: reincarnation, Mayans, killer plants, environmental awareness, and space-time refraction – Oh My!
The story’s premise is that a bank is making some bad investments in rain forest deforestation, and a local woman has a house with a garden that she and her son can talk to, and there are a couple of Mayan priests from the Fourth Age running around watching the Greenhouse Effect take down the humans who shouldn’t be here any more….. yeah. Convoluted, and yet, sort of like the root structure of a tree, it builds a foundation a story can grow from.
This book is actually kind of fun. The writing is deadpan, sometimes a bit illogical, but you really don’t mind because who can help but enjoy moments like these:
(Annie, the protagonist:) “Well, stop him! He murders people!”
(Mayan time traveler:) “He’s allowed to kill people if he wants to. He’s a priest.”
Yeah. That kind of thing. This book was published in 1995, way before the Mayan calendar crisis of 2012, but its take on the preservation of plants and forests is not preachy, just tucked underneath a lot of rushed-past unexplained phenomenon. Elze’s writing kind of reminds me of Stephen King’s advice: Not everything in life is explained, so why should writing be different?
I was in the mood for something different, and this book obliged. If you’d enjoy reading about murderous plants, night flights as women turn into birds, modern day herbalist witches who really don’t want to be, and planet-surfing Mayans decked out in parrot feathers who speak in English slang because of translation headbands, you’ll like this book.
And what’s not to like about planet-surfing Mayans with translation headbands? :]