I first read this absolutely fabulous book in April 2014, and I fell in love. Konigsburg’s writing is masterful and perfect in every way.
This is one of those books that it sounds like I should hate, as there really isn’t a great deal of plot, and it’s combined with multiple first-person narratives and a completely wonky timeline. But Konigsburg has the knack of being able to tell a story within a story, while weaving life-lessons in a way that you barely realize you are learning them until you get to the end and find yourself chewing on the book for days afterwards.
One of the stories, the one that ties the others together, is the story of four sixth-graders who comprise their class’s quiz bowl team – a team that beat not only the other sixth grade teams, not only the seventh and eighth grade teams, but have also won district and gone on to state: unprecedented for their age. The question everyone asks is simple: how did their teacher, Mrs. Olinski, choose them?
Throughout the book, some of the story is told in third person, and there is a first-person chapter for each of the students. Each child has had something happen to him or her in the past year, something that has changed who they are, has changed their perspective on life. They are not necessarily events that, objectively, are huge or momentous. They are, for the most part, everyday circumstances. But, strangely enough, it is usually everyday circumstances that can change the trajectory of our lives.
A lot of reviews I have read for this book are negative. People seem to either love it or hate it. The people who hate it say that it is pointless and disjointed. And they are right in the sense that there is not necessarily a linear story being told, and so there isn’t exactly a beginning or an end. But it is a story nonetheless. This book is one that embraces the realization that life is about giving and accepting, finding and losing, asking questions and providing answers – in short, fitting into your life is about learning to find balance within it.
I wanted to walk the road between Sillington House and mine. I wanted to mark the distance slowly. Something had happened at Sillington House … Had I gained something at Sillington House? Or had I lost something there? The answer was yes.
Life itself is not linear, and has no clear beginnings or endings. Even our births and deaths are not truly our beginnings or endings. Sometimes the answers to our questions are more questions, and sometimes we find answers to questions we didn’t even know we were asking.
I highly recommend this book. Although it is a short read, it is worth reading slowly. It is a book to savor and contemplate, and is one that is worth reading more than once. 5/5.