* Thank you to ECW Press and Goodreads for the advanced copy that made this review possible!
In this reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Jack Todd has provided us with a novel about the power of immeasurable love and the frightening consequences of ignorance.
Poe was born different in nearly every conceivable way. With six fingers on each hand, six toes on each foot, and a size and strength unequaled in their small community, he possesses an awesome physical power. And yet his mind has remained, in many ways, like that of a young child. Aside from a talent for memory of clothing and colours, he is unable to read, write, do sums, or understand much beyond simple speech. His lifeline is his mother, Rose, who has fought for him since he was born and continues to help him navigate a world that fails to understand him. She alone appreciates his gentle dazzlement of the natural world and his abiding kindness to all living creatures great and small. But even she can’t protect him from the storm that is about to rage around them.
While fishing one afternoon, Poe happens to witness the brutal assault of Miranda Thorne, the beloved daughter of a former star lawyer. He carries her unconscious body for a mile and a half until he collapses at the feet of the local sherriff. Despite his obvious attempts to save her life and his contant muttering of “Get help get help get help,” he is arrested and charged with the crime.
Now the community that has seemed to accept Rose and Poe all these years will be divided in a bitter trial to get at the truth of what happened to Miranda on that fateful day. A powerful storm has washed out the crime scene, Poe is unable to properly defend himself, and Miranda’s memory of the three weeks leading up to the attack were lost to her life-threatening injuries. And even if Poe can escape the grip of the legal system, there are far more nefarious forces threatening to destroy him and Rose – the angry townsfolk who want to believe that Poe is the monster they have thought him to be all along.
You will be hard-pressed to forget gentle Poe and his mother Rose, who loves him with a fierce, visceral strength. Rose is steadfast and straightforward in her dealings with the world at large. After giving birth by herself at sixteen, she fought to keep Poe when the system wanted him locked away in institutions. She has carved out a comfortable, quiet life for the two of them. She demonstrates a tremendous capacity for compassion and forgiveness. Rose is truly a remarkable character.
The simplicity of the story allows the reader profound introspection on the central message of the book. It is especially poignant in an age where it is becoming more difficult, and yet, increasingly important, to look past our individual differences and resist rushing to judgement of our fellow humans. The story reads like a fable, although the lines between good and evil are sufficiently blurred to create some literary depth and tension. It explores the fickleness of mob mentality and the dangers of idly convicting someone in our minds. Rose and Poe certainly has something to teach us about humanity and accepting our most authentic selves.
Part crime/court novel, part legend, reminiscent of Of Mice and Men and The Tempest, you should be sure to add this to your TBR and snap it up as soon as it’s available! No background knowlege of Shakespeare required (although I’m sure having some would only add to the enjoyment of this book).