The Keening

The Keening

3.6 5
by A. LaFaye

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Born into a family with artistry in their fingers, Lyza laments that her only talent is carving letters into wood. That is until her life is turned upside down when her mother succumbs to the influenza pandemic of 1918, which is devastating their small coastal town in Maine. With her mother gone, Lyza must protect her eccentric father, who runs the risk of being


Born into a family with artistry in their fingers, Lyza laments that her only talent is carving letters into wood. That is until her life is turned upside down when her mother succumbs to the influenza pandemic of 1918, which is devastating their small coastal town in Maine. With her mother gone, Lyza must protect her eccentric father, who runs the risk of being committed, especially now that he claims he’s waiting for the return of his dead wife. Can Lyza save her father and find her own path in the process?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in northern Maine in 1918, the year of the influenza pandemic, LaFaye's (Water Steps) compact novel is infused with the spirit of death. Fourteen-year-old Lyza's parents have raised her in an unconventional manner; the family sleeps and eats to its own rhythms. Pater, while mentally unbalanced, is a gifted sculptor, and Mater plays the cello, bakes, and sews beautifully. Lyza deeply loves her family and home in their small coastal town—“The comforts of it had soaked in soul deep.... sights like our house standing on the high grass plain between the glen of sugar maples and the forest made me feel safe”—but yearns for a talent of her own. Early on, Mater succumbs to influenza, and Lyza must confront her fear of travel to fight relatives who want to have Pater committed. During her journey to get help, she discovers her singular gift. LaFaye explores the thin line between artistry and mental illness and offers visions of dead spirits in darkly lyrical language that makes for a powerful and unsettling book, best appreciated by older preteens and teens. Ages 8-13. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—At age 15, Lyza knows there's something different about her family. Her father, a sculptor viewed by many in their Maine fishing village as insane, relies entirely on his wife for daily care. When the 1918 influenza epidemic claims her mother, Lyza fears for Pater and their way of life. It soon becomes apparent that his genius extends beyond the natural world; he communes with spirits to fulfill the wishes of departing souls. The teen begins to have her own visions, accepts her supernatural inheritance, and uses it to protect her father and their home. LaFaye begins the novel in the deepest, darkest parts of Lyza's mind and then drags readers through a dizzying succession of thoughts, actions, and ideas. There is no time to become invested in any one character, and the plot takes a lot of unnecessary twists and turns. Readers interested in ghost stories may pick this one up after exhausting other options, but this title will otherwise be a hard sell.—Sara Saxton, Tuzzy Consortium Library, Barrow, AK
Kirkus Reviews
Fourteen-year-old Lyza lives with her parents on an isolated point of land outside a small coastal Maine town in 1918. Her mother lovingly protects her father from the world, protection he needs since he spends most of his time carving the faces of angels only he can see. After her mother suddenly dies during the influenza epidemic, Lyza must move beyond her grief to find a way to keep her father safe from extended family members who would institutionalize him. With the help of her only friend, Jake, she gradually comes to a fuller understanding of both her father's visions and his seemingly tenuous grasp on reality. Lyrical language, an underlying mystery that is only slowly revealed and Lyza's fully realized character make this a compelling read. Her vivid dreams weave in and out of her reality, and less sophisticated readers may find this intermingling confusing at first. Those who are carried along by her story will enjoy a surprise ending that moves this entertaining effort beyond historical fiction into mild though plausible fantasy. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Milkweed Editions
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

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The Keening 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading The Keening. Lyza was interesting and the mix of historical and paranormal was just right. A great twist on the classic ghost genre with literary quality.
Read_A_Book More than 1 year ago
I am sorry to say that I really didn't care for this book. The synopsis quickly attracted my attention, but upon reading the story, I found myself often confused and uninterested in the life of the characters. I think my confusion added to my dislike of the novel because it held me back in terms of getting to know the characters and understanding the true plotline of the story. I had a hard time following Lyza's train of thought, as she seems to go from one subject to the next, and I felt like an outsider as I read-it was difficult for me to make connections between the different topics Lyza brought to light, such as her father, her family, her schooling, etc. I think the choppy style of the narrative is one of the main aspects that I struggled with, though the amount of description in the beginning of the novel was also daunting to me, as I live for action, and felt like the story thrived more on description than actual events. Although the paranormal is present in this novel, and it is usually my forte, I have to say that overall, this novel just isn't for me. One star.
Jasmyn9 More than 1 year ago
Influenza used to be one of the most dreaded diseases in the world. When Lyza's mother succumbs to the disease, it is up to Lyza, a teenage girl, to take care of her father and prevent the rest of the family from putting him in the work farm for people who are not quite there mentally. Lyza struggles to find a way to save her father, remember her deceased mother's wishes, and figure out who she really is. The character of Lyza was fascinating. She reminded me of myself so much as a teenager. Knowing where you wanted to go and who you wanted to be, but not having a clear picture of how to get there. I loved the way she related to her mother and father, and was willing to sacrifice anything to save her father from being committed to the work farm. The story concentrates very much on Lyza and her father, rarely leaving the small world of their family, and then only when necessary. This was the perfect way to write this very intimate story of the love between a daughter and her father, and their search to find their way in a world that has suddenly changed. 4/5
Mother-Daughter-Book-Club More than 1 year ago
When Lyza's Mater dies of the flu in the pandemic of 1918, Lyza must figure out a way to keep her relatives from sending her Pater away to a place for people deemed crazy. He's always been different, but Lyza knows he's not crazy. To prove it, she'll have to travel far and enlist the help of people she's never met. In the process she'll discover her own strength and her talents and find out how to forge ahead in her own life. The Keening by A. LaFaye is a haunting story in more ways than one. First there's the spirit that Lyza feels in her home the day a funeral passes by outside. Then there are all the sicknesses and deaths that visit the people in her Maine village. And there are also the carvings her Pater creates, the anguished souls he sees and must set free. Finally, there's the feeling of loss and longing throughout the story-Lyza's longing for her mother, and her desire to have a worthwhile talent. Her friend Jake's need to escape their small village for the big city of Portland. Her Pater's wish to help the troubled souls that appear to him. Author LaFaye creates a setting that's appropriately dark, with scenes of foggy islands, woods with watching faces and lonely cabins. It matches the somber mood of the times, when even in a small village many people could be quickly lost to the flu. The haunting images LaFaye creates are apt to linger with you for a long time. I recommend The Keening for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 12 and up.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Lyza's father, an eccentric, artistic man, is slowly losing his sanity. Lyza always relied on the stability of her mother to help keep him from completely going over the edge. Now, Lyza is left to pick up the pieces after her mother succumbs to the influenza epidemic. Pater struggles to maintain a sense of normalcy, but he is convinced that his wife's spirit will eventually pay him a visit. Lyza's father is hiding an incredible secret, one that may take him away from Lyza forever. It is a secret that Lyza shares with her father - a family trait that she has inherited and can no longer ignore. THE KEENING was a fast read. I enjoyed how LaFaye set the story in Maine around the time of the flu epidemic, as it gave the story some historical context. I also enjoyed her descriptions of the sea. The water seemed to be very important to both Lyza and her father. I was also surprised when Pater's secret was revealed - I had not seen that coming. The story is not complex and the characters are simple, but that is what makes this novel a delightful read. It is the story of a girl and the bond she shares with her father. Read it - you won't be disappointed.