This was the first of the three books David got me for my birthday. It is by one of my favorite authors: Terry Pratchett. Most Pratchett books are set on Discworld and have more than a little silliness to them, this one was different. It was set in a world very similar to our own, in the late 1800s and was much more serious in tone.
As I've read Jen's posts (http://www.lajendi.typepad.com/) I've been thinking about the difference in our reading styles. I have no idea why they developed, but for the most part we don't enjoy the same type of books. Nation feels like a cross between the books I generally read, and the ones she does. Ideas, religion and guilt, why we do the things we do and how other people are so necessary to our own mental well being are the themes of this book.
It starts with a catastrophe in England making a obscure ambassador to the Pacific Islands the King. His mother is fold of saying they are only 138 people away from the king, so when the news reaches her granddaughter she assumes Grandmother has been busy. She hasn't, it was a flu epidemic.
The next chapter is a disaster in the Pacific. A volcano and subsequent tsunami wipes out everyone on a small island except one boy who has been going through his manhood ritual. When he comes back to the Nation, they are all gone. The granddaughter mentioned above has been shipwrecked on the island, they gradually meet and other survivors collect there.
The truly amazing thing about this novel is how infrequently you are brought to tears. So many authors are heavy handed with the emotions, jerking your heartstrings around in every which way. The tragedy is handled tenderly and skillfully, so the mental struggles that come with the emotions are highlighted, not the emotions themselves. It was written as a YA novel, so the graphic nature of a similar book perhaps written for adults was not here, and it may strike some people as simplistic.
I find crisis of faith books to be overly negative of positive, depending on whether or not you can get them at Deseret Book. This time you are still left with the questions and problems of a boy trying to understand his new world. It challenges the reader and invites them to think about the same issues, but gently, understanding that it is painful and difficult sometimes.
Nation. Terry Pratchett. HarperCollins. 2008