The Land of Decoration
By Grace McCleen
(Henry Holt and Co., Hardcover, 9780805094947, 320pp.)
Publication Date: March 27, 2012
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A mesmerizing debut about a young girl whose steadfast belief and imagination bring everything she once held dear into treacherous balance
In Grace McCleen's harrowing, powerful debut, she introduces an unforgettable heroine in ten-year-old Judith McPherson, a young believer who sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith. Persecuted at school for her beliefs and struggling with her distant, devout father at home, young Judith finds solace and connection in a model in miniature of the Promised Land that she has constructed in her room from collected discarded scraps—the Land of Decoration. Where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility and divinity in even the strangest traces left behind. As ominous forces disrupt the peace in her and Father's modest lives—a strike threatens her father's factory job, and the taunting at school slips into dangerous territory—Judith makes a miracle in the Land of Decoration that solidifies her blossoming convictions. She is God's chosen instrument. But the heady consequences of her newfound power are difficult to control and may threaten the very foundations of her world.
With its intensely taut storytelling and crystalline prose, The Land of Decoration is a gripping, psychologically complex story of good and evil, belonging and isolation, which casts new and startling light on how far we'll go to protect the things we love most.
Grace McCleen studied English Literature at Oxford University and The University of York before becoming a full-time writer and musician. She lives in London. The Land of Decoration is her first novel.
“Gripping…philosophically sophisticated…McCleen never tips her hat. The writing is born of a genuine inquiry into the nature of religious belief, especially as it relates to one’s psychological development…The Land of Decoration puts a child at the crux of this interpretive dillema, and our hearts go out to her.” –The New York Times Book Review
“[A] mind-bending, soul-stretching, gloriously realized debut…While end-of-time stories are faddish, UK writer Grace McCleen’s novel, The Land of Decoration, is one to heed. The first sentence sets the tone for this rapturous, daringly imaginative tale of love, loss, and salvation…”—Elle magazine
“McCleen skillfully keeps us in a state of suspense; we root for Judith even while we are aghast at her conclusions and actions… [A]s the advice and instruction Judith receives become increasingly dangerous, the book becomes something even the Bible can't always be: a page turner.” –Minneapolis Star Tribune
"This extraordinary tale of one little girl's End Times grabbed me by the throat. The Land of Decoration is part social observation and part crazy mysticism, held together by a brutally real story of parent-child love."—Emma Donoghue, author of Room
“Loveable, unique and thrillingly uncategorisable… A story about a small person’s small antithesis of a small town full of small-minded people, this is a big-hearted novel.” –Chris Cleave, Financial Times
“Gripping, beautiful… [M]akes you gasp with delight…In many ways it's suspense—is Judith going to get hurt?—that keeps you tearing through the pages (be prepared for the complete and total devastation of your social life; once you pick up this novel, you will not be able to do anything until you finish)... This isn't a child like the other children in books—say, the unbelievably smart ones who can lecture on astronomy and rare stamps. This is a regular old child, a loving, confused, tender-hearted little person who is trying, like all of us, to make some sense of out of this life.” –Oprah.com pick for “Book of the Week”
“The novel’s best moments offer a profound sense of the existential crisis that any believer eventually faces… McCleen also has a good ear for the blessings of comedy — the little moments of absurdity that children experience as they try to make sense of religion.” –Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“Grace McCleen’s writing is deep, fantastical and powerful, and she really lets us into the heart of this tender, gentle little girl…A wonderful gen of a debut novel.”—The Independent (UK)
“A tremendously affecting novel, skillfully and arrestingly written, and one that packs a big emotional punch.” —The Sunday Times (UK)
“British musician McCleen’s debut explores the complexities of love between a widowed father and his daughter…McCleen adroitly combines cinematic momentum with intuitive description in this novel about the consequences of faith and what happens when we believe that we have the power to effectuate change.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“So memorable…Surprising, affecting, thoughtful and complex, McCleen's novel grows in power the more time you spend with it.” –The Guardian (UK)
“Extraordinary…like Emma Donoghue (whose “Room” was shortlisted for last year’s Booker Prize) McCleen has created a voice which rings true and resonates deep. Bursting with tension and tenderness, this novel is a small miracle in itself.” –Daily Mail (UK)
“[A] stunning debut.…At its core, it’s about the biggest issues a person can encounter—how to confront the unknown, how to negotiate faith and how to be a decent and loving human being. The fact that Grace McCleen is able to address these matters with such subtlety and delicacy is no small miracle itself.” -- Bookpage
“Which of us, when we were small, didn't fervently wish for — and frankly believe in — divine intervention? [The Land of Decoration] paints an affecting and often unsettling portrait of pure faith. B+” –Entertainment Weekly
“Debut author McCleen creates a believable, compelling voice for the youthful narrator, and her portrait of a bereaved father is equally affecting…(a) haunting debut.” – Kirkus
“[Grace McCleen] writes with a kind of plaintive lyricism; you ache for Judith, but keep reading, because there's something haunting and addictive about the rhythm of the sentences.” –The Seattle Times