Monday, July 31, 2006

Mock Printz: The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos

Title: The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs
Author: Jack Gantos
Publisher: FSG
ISBN: 0374336903
Starred review in: Kirkus (4-1-o6), nominated to BBYA

Review: Jack Gantos, well known for his humorous Joey Pigza series and his Printz Honor autobiography Hole in my Life, offers a gothic novel with themes of familial love, eugenics, and taxidermy. Trust me on this one. Ivy has lived all her life in a small town in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, with her mother. Her mother works for the eccentric but kind Rumbaugh twins, Abner and Adolph. Then Ivy discovers that the twins' eccentricities go a little beyond their quiet nature. Expert taxidermists, the twins have preserved their mother and all her little parts in the basement of their pharmacy. More than just a fascination with the macabre, this need for preservation is tied to the Rumbaugh family curse, which is not something from which Ivy can so easily escape.

Although it's not outright horror, this is a creepy, creepy book, and I'm still amazed that Jack Gantos, whose books are always so funny, wrote something so unnerving (and incredibly well-structured). There's a lot of metaphor here, about love, about racism and eugenics. And some parts of it are just plain weird. Overall, it's wonderful and in my personal top 10 of 2006.

Reviewed by: Carlie W., BCCLS

1 comment:

SusanRap said...

I finished this book waiting in a hospital which certainly added to its creepiness. This will probably be one of my top ten books.... I finished it yesterday and the characters and story have haunted me ever since.... The book really gives you something to think about.... Eugenics was a very popular and accepted scientific theory...... In this book, genetics is distorted in a different way. Instead of creating a "superior" Aryan race, the Rumbaughs succeed in breeding in "mother" love. This intense mother love becomes a curse. So is the premise of this particularly strange novel. The love curse which is genetically carried through the Rumbaugh line reaches new heights when an outsider insinuates herself into the family and produce Ivy. Ivy is a constant visitor to the pharmacy which is run by twin Rumbaugh men. These twins manage to preserve their mom's body taxodermically in order to keep her in their lives after her death. Ivy, the main character, meets that mom in the basement of the pharmacy. Her initial horror leads to curiosity as she realizes she has the same curse as the twins. But the love for her mom is sweet even though it is an obsession. Her genetically induced love curse is different than the twins in a way and one could get into a whole discussion about how and why... Even though Ivy struggles to break away from this curse as her mom tries valiantly to pry her from the town and the Rumbaugh influence, the ending is surprising and sad. Teens will like this book on whatever level... either as a horror novel or just a very weird book. I can't wait to use it in my mother daughter book discussion to hear what teenage girls and their moms will make of it. No matter what, the book is highly original and will make you think and puzzle over it for a long time....