Gadly Plain sweeps the reader up into the rich yet simple world of an orphaned girl and a mysterious donkey, a world both familiar and mystical, melancholic and full of hope. When young girl's father dies and her mother abandons her at her paternal grandparents' home in Kentucky, no one helps her cope with the cloud of death that hovers over the family ... until she wanders down to the neighbor's barn. There, in an earthy, unlikely haven, vistas open to Spring-baby that transcend time and place and even death. There the girl named Spring-baby meets a donkey who knew Adam and Noah, Abraham and Moses, Jesus Christ, the Apostle John, Saint Francis of Assisi. A strong and beautiful narrative with a powerful climax.
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Gadly Plain based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
This engaging novel is all about seeking, the universal quest for knowledge, the asking of “why?” As in life, the answers are not always obvious, even though they may be hiding in plain sight. The protagonist, a 12-year old girl called Spring-baby—yes, it’s a symbolic name—is devastated by her father’s death. In fact, the entire family is devastated to the point of having their lives thrown off-balance. Spring-baby’s mother Lorelei leaves her with the grandparents while she goes to “find butterflies”; that is, try to make some sense of her dear husband’s death. However, the grandparents are in the depths of their own grief and therefore emotionally unavailable. Virtually abandoned, Spring-baby wanders down the pasture to the neighbor’s barn. There she makes friends with the kind but mentally challenged farmer and his talking donkey. Yes, there is symbolism in both of these characters as well. Through the donkey’s stories, as interpreted by the farmer, Spring-baby learns the history of the world. Meanwhile, the Lorelei drives from town to town as she tries to figure out why her husband, only 33 years old, had to die. In a café, she overhears a conversation about Gadly Plain. I’ll leave the surprise for readers to discover on their own. From the very first sentence, I was taken in by the artistic use of language, the story, and the answers it seeks: “There had been far worse chasms of despair throughout the history of the world—more gripping, suffocating, more inexplicably woeful–but Spring-baby Westbay couldn’t imagine any such chasm because she had fallen into one of her very own… Sorrow bullied her, kept her wilted, sober.” I found the book to be both worthwhile and engaging. While I personally did not care for The Shack, I believe fans of that book would love Gadly Plain, which is far better written and more intelligent. Questions for Discussion are included, making this novel a good selection for book clubs. Ink illustrations by Raw Spoon at the beginning of each chapter appropriately meld with the story. Author J. Michael Dew holds a PhD in Literature and Criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.