Among Others

Mori’s diary starts in September 1979, as she heads to a new boarding school in the country, after the school year has already started. Teenage Mori suspects she’s being sent to school so her aunts can be rid of her. She’s a stranger to them and to her father who lives with them. She’s with them only because the courts sent her to them after she ran away from her mother. Her mother who happens to be a witch and is somehow responsible for the death of Mori’s twin sister.

Among Others by Jo Walton is a book about aftermath. A lot of the drama happened before the book began. And now Mori is left to get on with it, and she chronicles each day of healing and recovery from September to February.

It’s not a smooth path because adolescence rarely is, and Mori has a lot of the typical problems of fitting in and figuring herself out. But, on top of that, she’s dealing with the loss of her sister and a leg injury that requires her to walk with a cane. She’s not always likable, but that’s largely because her diary is an outlet for her saddest and meanest thoughts, which she doesn’t share with others. It’s here that she expresses some of her snobbery about her schoolmates, for example. I suspect, though, that a lot of readers could, like me, relate to her particular type of teenage snobbery that arises in part out of the difficulty of finding your own people, who get what you get and like what you like.

Interestingly, as Mori joins a book group of fellow science fiction readers, a lot of her meanness evaporates. It’s almost as if she’s secure enough not to need to put up that barrier anymore. As for the book group, it’s a wonderful, intergenerational group that actually discusses the books. Science fiction fans will probably enjoy all the references to the books she and her friends read. I’ve only read a few of the books mentioned, so the references meant little to me, but it was fun to see their passion.

The book’s format, a series of daily diary entries has some negative effects on the pacing, as Mori describes certain day-to-day events in great detail but ends up compressing the climactic ending, when Mori must face down the magic that nearly killed her before. In a way, though, that didn’t bother me because the book isn’t really about the big climactic moments but about the doings of daily life. Spending more time on bus rides and bakery trips and book lists than on fairies and magical showdowns felt appropriate.

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5 Responses to Among Others

  1. Jeanne says:

    Isn’t this a wonderful book? I think part of the personality of the author got written into it.
    I was lucky enough to meet her once, and talk to her for a while. At that point she said she was reading my blog (she once posted a poem in the comments). She’s an even more wonderful story-teller in person than she is on the page.

    • Teresa says:

      I love that you got to meet her and that she read your blog! I’ve enjoyed all of her books that I’ve read. She’s one of my reliably good authors.

  2. Jeane says:

    This sounds good. I’m adding it to my list! Is the magic a large part of the story? I almost missed your reference to the mom as a witch until you said something at the end about magic. But it sounds more like a realistic story?

    • Teresa says:

      Mori thinks about magic a lot and there are some magical happenings, but the book did feel more realistic to me. I think it’s because Mori just sees magic as a regular part of life (albeit a dangerous part), and so it doesn’t necessarily carry more emotional weight than more ordinary (to us) aspects of life.

  3. Ruthiella says:

    I liked that the belief in magic really is left up to the reader. One can read it both ways. Also, this book was like a primer for classic sci-fi. It made me want to stop time and read everything that Mori was reading in her group!

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