Staff Review: "Nine Open Arms"
“Is it true that some stories only just manage to be born? Or do these stories always seek their own path into the world, and do they always, eventually, find a way of being told?”
What first attracted me to this book was the cover art—a brick house on a deserted road with no front door, combined inside the jacket with a mysterious bed in a field and a lonely table and chairs. Within the first chapter, readers are introduced to the house and its current occupants: a family of nine. ‘Nine Open Arms’ is the nickname the narrator and her two sisters give the house after measuring their own spacious room with outspread arms. This house, thinks their father, will be a great location for his new business venture in cigars. Yet as he and the four sons set to work repairing the house and rolling ‘better-luck-next-time’ cigars, Oma (Grandma) Mei is not so optimistic. She surveys the house with one good eye and one ‘swivel-eye’ and we wonder if she knows more than she will say. Why does the front door face the back, what is the meaning of the ‘tombstone’ bed in the cellar, and who really is the crazy ‘button-chewer’ Oompah Hatsi? At the heart of these mysteries is an enduring and haunting love story that is revealed to readers as we follow this family for a year of their lives.
This captivating story is translated from Dutch, keeping in a few words of original Dutch slang, which gives the book a foreign atmosphere without being confusing. The young narrator’s insightful observations about her situation make it an appealing read for both adults and children.
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