Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Pam Muñoz Ryan is an amazing crafter of words. She is a word artist, and it is probably nowhere more apparent than in this book. Why do the best writers always write sad books? This is a historical/biographical fiction based on the life of a famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Neruda was an assumed name. As a child he was called Neftali Reyes. In the book Neftali is a very shy sensitive boy. He lives with a loving stepmother, but a harsh, overbearing father. The relationship between father and son is achingly painful and all too realistic. Ryan manages to make it clear that the father really does love his son, and wants the best for him, but what he thinks is the best is to toughen the boy so he will survive in the adult world. In reality he crushes the boy's spirit, so Neftali cannot even talk to his father without stuttering. The Father heaps on him verbal abuse and makes him do things that are physically and emotionally battering. The boy is terrified of his father, but still wants to win his approval. Ryan's portrayal captures the complicated mix of emotions so that it rends your heart strings. Since Neftali grows up to be a famous poet, Ryan infuses the narrative with poetry--some of her own and some of Neruda's. It would take a very sensitive child to enjoy this book, but I think many adults would appreciate the honesty and artistry of the writing. (376 p)

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