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27 July 2016

a book review: The Hermit, by Monica Friedman

I don't have many words for how deeply this story touched me, but I can tell you how it did so:

The characters are people first; they are individuals, not the named trait-collections one finds in some books. These characters have their own voices that are not dictated by the stereotypes attached to them. Men experience sadness; women experience anger; children can be calm; adults can be playful. There is no watering down of a smart character's vocabulary, no fluffing up of the simpler characters' vocabulary. There is never a time when the characters experience only one emotion. They're all too human for that.

It is also true that these characters are archetypes in the fairy tale Friedman weaves. It's a fairy tale about humanity, despite the greater number of animals than humans in the cast. I felt connected to the characters as people, no matter their species.

I could hear the author's voice in this story. It was strong, consistent, and clear. I could also hear the voices of the characters, for the reasons I've already mentioned. And, I could hear my own story in their voices. I cried when I saw my voice in a character's pain; when I saw, finally, how that pain came to be; when I saw how much of our pain is our own creation. I cried again when I was reminded that there's still hope - there will always be hope, and a choice.

This story is everything a fairy tale should be: it reflects us with almost obscene clarity at our best, and at our worst, and it shows us a path through the dark.

I will read this many times, whenever I need to hear it again.

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