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Merle

Merle

The Raging Quiet - Sherryl Jordan I'm astonished to see this book classified as "fantasy" by so many people--I read quite a bit of fantasy and historical fiction, and this belongs solidly in the second category. There's no magic here--well, the story is about two young people who create a sign language and fall in love, which is magical in its own way, but nothing that couldn't happen in our world. And although Jordan claims in the afterward that there's something mythological about this tale because she didn't specify the historical setting, it's obvious from the characters' names, the social structure and customs, and the landscape that the book is set in medieval Ireland (more or less; the "mythological" comment may be intended to cover a few minor deviations, and to give the author free rein with geography). I wonder if people are confused because some of the author's other books are actual fantasy?

At any rate, The Raging Quiet is a beautiful story set in a realistic medieval world. The good-hearted but naive Marnie moves to an unwelcoming coastal village with her new husband, only for him to die shortly thereafter. The only people who will have anything to do with her are the kindly, liberal priest, Father Brannan, and the village madman, Raven, who turns out to be not crazy but deaf. Marnie decides to learn to communicate with Raven, and things go from there; the plot is interesting throughout, although a couple of Marnie's choices seem a bit senseless. The characters are three-dimensional if a bit advanced for their medieval setting, which is beautifully depicted. There is a fair bit of nastiness in this book--and a plot twist or two I didn't expect in a young adult novel--but Jordan resists the temptation to create lots of one-dimensional nasty characters, portraying them instead in shades of gray. It's obvious from the writing that she has some familiarity with both deaf people and the Middle Ages, and the romance will appeal to anyone who likes a good love story. I do agree with the reviewers who have commented that the book sets Marnie on too much of a pedestal, though; she's a sympathetic character, and given what she goes through it makes sense for Father Brannan to encourage her, but his praise and indulgence are a little much.

This book may be labeled "young adult," but there is plenty for older readers to enjoy as well. Still, the label seems to have upset a few people when they found that sex is present (although anything but graphic--and while trying to avoid spoilers, I would argue that the sex that occurs is entirely appropriate and necessary in context), so keep that in mind if looking for a book for a small child. For the rest of us, I highly recommend this one.