The Land of Decoration

The Land of Decoration

by Grace McCleen

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Overview

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize

Judith and her father don't have much—their house is full of dusty relics, reminders of the mother she's never known. But Judith sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith, and where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility. Bullied at school, she finds solace in making a model of the Promised Land—little people made from pipe cleaners, a sliver of moon, luminous stars, and a mirror sea—a world of wonder that Judith calls the Land of Decoration. Perhaps, she thinks, if she makes it snow indoors (using shaving cream and cotton balls and Scotch tape) there will be no school on Monday. Sure enough, when Judith opens her curtains the next day, the world beyond her window has turned white. She has performed her first miracle. And that's when her troubles begin.

With its intensely taut storytelling and gorgeous prose, The Land of Decoration is a breathtaking story of good and evil, belief and doubt. Grace McCleen is a blazing new talent in contemporary literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250024077
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 03/05/2013
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 907,013
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

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.

Read an Excerpt

The Empty Room

 

IN THE BEGINNING there was an empty room, a little bit of space, a little bit of light, a little bit of time.

I said: “I am going to make fields,” and I made them from place mats, carpet, brown corduroy, and felt. Then I made rivers from crêpe paper, plastic wrap, and shiny tinfoil, and mountains from papier mâché and bark. And I looked at the fields and I looked at the rivers and I looked at the mountains and I saw they were good.

I said: “Now for some light,” and I made a sun from a wire metal cage strung with beads that hung down from above, I made a sliver of moon and luminous stars, and at the edge of the world I made a sea from a mirror, reflecting the sky and the boats and the birds and the land (where it touched). And I looked at the sun and I looked at the moon and I looked at the sea and I saw they were good.

I said: “What about homes?” And I made one from a ball of dry grass and one from a hollow tree stump and one from a barrel that toffees came in and I gave it a fishing line and sail and made space for a blanket and toothbrush and cup, and a stove, and put a gull high on the mast (which was really a broom handle) and launched it out on the sea (which was really a mirror).

I made houses from chocolate-dip-cookie cartons: the plastic scoop where the chocolate was, that was the bedroom, and the round room below, where the cookies had been, that was the living room. I made houses from a matchbox and a bird’s nest and a pea pod and a shell. And I looked at the houses and saw they were good.

I said: “Now we need animals,” and I made paper birds and wool rabbits and felt cats and dogs. I made furry bears, striped leopards, and fire-breathing, scale-crusted dragons. I made glittering fish and cockleshell crabs and birds on very thin wires.

Last I said: “We need people,” and I modeled faces and hands, lips, teeth, and tongues. I dressed them and wigged them and breathed into their lungs.

And I looked at the people and I looked at the animals and I looked at the land. And I saw they were good.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Grace McCleen

Table of Contents

Contents

Title Page,
Dedication,
Epigraph,
Book I: God's Instrument,
The Empty Room,
The Ground from the Air,
Holding My Breath,
What Is Dying Like?,
Why I Will Not Live Very Long,
Moving Mountains,
Why Faith Is Like Imagination,
Snow,
The Stone and the Book,
The First Miracle,
Evidence,
Why Seeing Really Is Believing,
The Test,
Snowflakes and Mustard Seeds,
A Skeptic,
A Secret,
A Voice in the Dark,
The Long-Distance Call,
The Third and Fourth Miracles,
Book II: The Snowball Effect,
Monday,
Tuesday,
The Other Cheek,
The Present,
A Decision,
How to Make a Man,
A Knock at the Door,
Sunday,
The Fifth Miracle,
Strike,
Neil Lewis Learns a Lesson,
More Knocking,
One Good Thought,
My Perfect Day,
Neil Lewis Gets Angry,
In the Classroom,
Trouble Begets Trouble,
Four Photographs,
The Snowball Effect,
What Happened in the Co-op,
A Broken Window,
A Story,
A Bad Lot,
Rising Above,
Little Witch,
A Lie,
Giving It Back,
Book III: Dark Matter,
Through My Window,
Dust and Stars,
A Cornfield,
The Sixth Miracle,
Master and Servant,
Dark Matter,
A Fence,
A Gate,
A Ring of Stakes,
A Vision,
What Have You Done?,
Book IV: The Lost Sheep,
Waiting,
The Law,
The Seventh Miracle,
The Best Day of My Life,
Dark,
The End of Judith McPherson,
At Dead of Night,
The Greatest Test of All,
Payback,
Fish and Chips,
Visitors,
Christmas,
The Last Day of the Year,
The Field Again,
Book V: The End of the World,
The Last but One Miracle,
Where to Find Mustard Seeds,
A Discovery,
The End of the World,
The Biggest Miracle of All,
The Space Where Miracles Happen,
A Life for a Life,
One Good Thought,
How to Make a Hot-Air Balloon,
Acknowledgments,
About the Author,
Copyright,

Reading Group Guide

1. Why do you think the author, Grace McCleen, told the story from Judith's perspective? How did her intimate narrative style draw you in and make you understand Judith's story? What was it like to read the observations of a ten-year-old girl like Judith?

2. Judith devotes so much of her time to creating the Land of Decoration. It's where she escapes into her imagination, but what does this world mean to her? Why do you think Judith passes her hours there? What does she get from her imagined world that the real one might not give her?

3. Why do you think Judith has such appreciation for the small, discarded things she finds? Describe a time when you've seen beauty in something when others have not.

4. Father and Judith eat lamb and bitter greens for dinner, read scripture at the dinner table, and spend time talking about "End Times." It's clear that religion is fundamental to their world. But how does is shape their daily life? How is it a source of comfort and inspiration? Or is it? Do you believe that this book portrays religion in a negative or positive light? Why?

5. Describe Judith's relationship with her father. How has her father handled being a single-parent? What is the dynamic of their relationship and how does it change throughout the narrative?

6. Why does Neil Lewis torment Judith? Does your opinion of him change after you meet his father, Doug Lewis? What does this tell us about the influences parents have on their children?

7. Faith and imagination are two major themes in the book. What are some examples of Judith's own faith? Her imagination? What do you think is the difference between the two? Is there a difference? What is the difference between faith and religion? Is there a difference?

8. Judith's father is ostracized for not joining the strike at the factory in town and later, he struggles within his own church community and slips into depression. In a similar way, Judith is an outcast at school and finds herself alone, slipping further into a troubling fantasy world. How does Grace McCleen portray both Judith and her father as outcasts? What do you think she is trying to say about how society treats people who are different?

9. What is the meaning of Brother Michael's story about the mustard seed? Why is Judith so intent on planting the seed? What doesn't it mean when the seed won't grow?

10. The death of Judith's mother seems to have influenced both Judith and her father in profound ways. How has Judith's father changed from before Judith was born? How has her mother's death shaped Judith into the precocious girl that she is? What is Judith's view on death?

11. Discuss the idea of forgiveness in the book (ie. Judith forgiving Neil; Father forgiving the vandals; Judith forgiving herself). What does it mean to truly forgive someone? How do you know? Do you think the characters in the book are successful in forgiving one another and themselves?

12. Judith believes in miracles. She says, "Miracles don't have to be big, and they can happen in the unlikeliest places." What does she mean? What are some miracles you see in your own life?

Customer Reviews

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The Land of Decoration: A Novel 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Twink More than 1 year ago
Every year there seems to be a book that stays with me long after I've turned the last page. And when someone asks me for a good book recommendation, it's the first one that comes to mind. The Land of Decoration - a debut novel by Grace McCleen is one of those books. Ten year old Judith McPherson lives in England with her father, her mother having passed away. She attends school, but is bullied and isolated, primarily because of the religious beliefs that she and her father follow. And sometimes Judith escapes into her own little world - one she has created in her room from rubbish. "There is a world in my room. It is made from things no one else wanted and it is made with things that were my mother's, that she left to me, and it has taken most of my life to make." She calls this world The Land of Decoration. She has taken this name from the book of Ezekiel - the land of milk and honey, a paradise for the faithful in the afterlife - The Promised Land. For Judith, it is where she will see her mother again. When Judith transforms her Land of Decoration into a snow covered blizzard and it happens in reality, she believes she is responsible. " Miracles happen because someone made them and because someone, somewhere, had faith." And she's doubly sure she's responsible as God told her she was. The bullying amplifies, as does the unrest at the factory Judith's father works at. And so does Judith's belief that she has the power to create miracles and change things. And God's voice is getting louder. I was so mesmerized by this book. I couldn't read it straight through, but had to put it down and come back later as my emotions were in a turmoil. Judith's voice was heartbreaking in so many ways. McCleen has created a character in Judith that just grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I found myself stopping to ponder many of her views. I wanted so badly to help her as she faced so much more than a ten year old should. McCleen's depictions of the other main players are just as well done. Judith's father is another poignant portrayal that was difficult to accept and read at times. McCleen's books explores so many themes - love, hate, tolerance, persecution, belief, faith and more, but ultimately is about the love between a parent and child. I wonder how much of Judith's story is Grace's story. She was raised in a fundamentalist religious environment and has a strong interest in miniatures as well. I think readers are either going to love or hate McCleen's book, much like Emma Donoghue's Room. This reader loved it. (so did Emma Donoghue)
nfmgirl More than 1 year ago
Judith McPherson is the ten-year-old voice of the story. Clever, sweet-intentioned most of the time, albeit confused and displaying some questionable behavior, she believes her father doesn’t love her. Judith has created a secret miniature world in her bedroom, made from the discarded scraps of everyday life. A quiet girl without friends her own age, she lives through the landscape and citizens of her handmade world. Judith’s life is made miserable and difficult by a school bully by the name of Neil Lewis. Her only solace in life is found in her relationship with God. Although the religion is never named in the book, it seems evident to me that the fictional religion is based on that of Jehovah’s Witnesses or something very similar. Making them Witnesses-like is an effective way to reinforce that Judith is in her own world, as Witnesses believe that they are “no part of this world” and keep themselves apart from the rest of society in their personal lives. This helped to strengthen the image of Judith as being a part of her handmade “Land of Decoration” in her bedroom more so than the world outside her door. Throughout the story, you are never quite sure whether Judith is delusional, or whether her life is full of coincidence. What is real, and what is in her head? But you continually want to take her in your arms and offer her solace. There is some vulgarity and crudity, but it is by no means gratuitous. It is kind of hard to have low-life bullies without it. My final word: I was in love with this book and little Judith McPherson before I finished page 1! As the story went on, I found that there were moments that inspired an almost visceral response. You find yourself thinking "no, no, no!" You find yourself pulling for this confused little girl at odds with herself and the world, trying to find balance with her otherwise rocky existence. Probably about three-quarters of the way through my love affair faded slightly, but I found it picked up again before long, and in the end I loved this story. I loved Judith.
ParadisePorch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A ten-year-old girl, devoutly religious and emotionally estranged from her father, is bullied at school ¿ and then more. How she and her father react to the persecution that comes because of their religion, her father¿s status as a factory `scab¿ during a major strike in the town, and the psychological twistedness of the bully and his father, forms the core story.I couldn¿t stop turning the pages, but other readers may not feel the same. This book can be interpreted in many, many ways and I¿m certain it will be the source of numberless discussions and widely varying reactions. 4 stars
nfmgirl2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Judith McPherson is the ten-year-old voice of the story. Clever, sweet-intentioned most of the time, albeit confused and displaying some questionable behavior, she believes her father doesn¿t love her.Judith has created a secret miniature world in her bedroom, made from the discarded scraps of everyday life. A quiet girl without friends her own age, she lives through the landscape and citizens of her handmade world.Judith¿s life is made miserable and difficult by a school bully by the name of Neil Lewis.Her only solace in life is found in her relationship with God. Although the religion is never named in the book, it seems evident to me that the fictional religion is based on that of Jehovah¿s Witnesses or something very similar.Making them Witnesses-like is an effective way to reinforce that Judith is in her own world, as Witnesses believe that they are ¿no part of this world¿ and keep themselves apart from the rest of society in their personal lives. This helped to strengthen the image of Judith as being a part of her handmade ¿Land of Decoration¿ in her bedroom more so than the world outside her door.Throughout the story, you are never quite sure whether Judith is delusional, or whether her life is full of coincidence. What is real, and what is in her head? But you continually want to take her in your arms and offer her solace.There is some vulgarity and crudity, but it is by no means gratuitous. It is kind of hard to have low-life bullies without it.My final word: I was in love with this book and little Judith McPherson before I finished page 1! As the story went on, I found that there were moments that inspired an almost visceral response. You find yourself thinking "no, no, no!" You find yourself pulling for this confused little girl at odds with herself and the world, trying to find balance with her otherwise rocky existence. Probably about three-quarters of the way through my love affair faded slightly, but I found it picked up again before long, and in the end I loved this story. I loved Judith.
2chances on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ten-year-old Judith McPherson (her given name hints at her fierce mythic power) has a secret: God speaks to her. Loudly. The rigid yet salvific God of the sect that rules the McPherson family's lives turns out to be considerably more unpredictable when chatting with young Judith, and Judith is learning that using "divine" power has consequences that no ten-year-old could predict. Grace McCleen's debut novel is fascinating, disturbing, funny, troubling. Does God really talk to Judith, or have the traumas of her life (the death of her mother, her distant, angry father, the endless bullying she endures at school) made her crazy? Is she finally moving from utter impotence to near-omnipotence, or have the events of her life finally slid completely out of control? McCleen is deft at feeding only scraps of the answers, and leaving the reader to ponder all the big questions. There's tragedy here, and comedy, and ultimately a lot of thought about the nature of God, faith, humanity, and the way life requires us to act without having a clue that we may be setting off an avalanche of unforeseen consequences. I thought about Judith's story for days after I finished reading it, and that is exactly how I like stories to go. More, please, Grace McCleen.Thanks to the LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program for my copy of The Land of Decoration!
Sean191 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful book. Short chapters keep in fast-paced and the tension builds at the perfect rate as the story continues. One thing that really struck me, was the throw-away creativity of the author. McCleen comes up with tales her heroine creates, just little snippets, but frankly, they're amazing stories in their own right - albeit for children. One example that's still clear in my mind is the story of the dragon that wants to smell the roses, but every time he tries, he accidentally chars them. There are at least two or three more story ideas like that....but that's such a tiny aspect of this wonderful book - I don't want to be misleading. The heroine is wonderful, the story is great, the writing is great. The only thing keeping me from giving an extra 1/2 star are the typos. For a little while, I was marking them as I came across them, but they were normally every page, so I stopped. Sometimes just a punctuation mark out of place, other times two or three words repeated. I hope they've got things ironed out for the actual store release, because it really is a wonderful work and it would be a shame to have it dragged down by 11th hour carelessness.
3bythesea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book a little lacking in focus. It is the story of Judith a 10 year old girl raised in a Christian sect which believes in the coming of Armageddon. She creates a world out of gums wrappers and other bits of detritus which represents the paradise which will occur after the end of the world. As pressures mount at school and home she begins to hear the voice of god, or perhaps to have auditory hallucinations and to believe she can perform miracles. The miracles begin to go awry not having the results she expects and her world begins to fall apart. At the very end of the book disaster is averted. I found the degree of distress Judith experiences justified so to speak by any value or reward from the story and the ending of the book too neat.
gbower on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent book! The story is written in the voice of 10 year old Judith who is being raised by her father who is still grieving for his wife who died giving birth to Judith. They are members of an extreme Christian sect who feel obligated to tell the world that the end of the world is coming soon. Judith is an extremely bright child with a delightful imagination which supports her until many problems arise. Since her father is not demonstrative she feels he does not love her because her birth caused her mother's death. She is teased and isolated from her schoolmates and her vivid imagination and her strange conception of God lead her to believe she can cause miracles and also disaster. This is such a strong combination of imagination, fantasy, faith, guilt, and family love and Judith must deal with it on her own. The writing is deep and insightful and I feel that I will go back and reread this book for the things that I missed the first time.
Liz_S on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book as my first early reviewers book ever from Library Thing. I really enjoyed this book and tore through it pretty fast! I dont really agree with the way the author portrayed God though. I think that most people who dont read the BIBLE will get the wrong idea about HIM. There were also ALOT of grammatical errors throughout the entire book. I mean ALOT! I would have given a higher rating if not for those. It was almost like they were in a big hurry to get the book out. All in all it was a very touching story and I have already passed it along to my friend!
TiffanyHickox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Land of Decoration is the compelling story of Judith McPherson, a young girl raised by her widowed father. Both are members of an eccentric fellowship who believes the end of world is at hand, and they spend time spreading the world of the impending apocalypse in hopes that others will repent and be saved. Judith attends public school where she is bullied by a cruel group of boys to the point where she fears for her life. In her spare time she creates her idealic "Land of Decoration" from rubbish and debris, making a model city complete with buildings, automobiles, people, and animals. As she becomes more and more distressed, she begins to hear the voice of God and believes that she has been given special powers to perform miracles. At first this power seems to be a blessing, but Judith soon begins to fear the repercussions.Overall, the story moves along at a good pace, the dialog is engaging, and the characters are interesting. Judith's father is the only character who really bothered me, as he was not as solidly crafted as the others. He was an odd mixture of different sterotypes - grieving widow, distant father, poor working man and left field religious follower - and none of them were fully realized. Judith's interactions with him left me confused as to who he was and what his motives were.Another distraction with the books is the frequent errors in the manuscript, and while I realize this was an advanced review copy, there seemed to be errors on every page which created some confusion and had me re-reading sections that would not have been necessary if it had been more throughly proofed.This book would make an excellent selection for a book club.
amcreech on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Judith McPherson is a young motherless girl growing up with an extremely devout father. She is made fun of at school and doesn't really fit in anywhere. To escape from this reality, she creates her own reality of a world made of junk in her room. It is her escape from real life. Judith soons comes to believe that she speaks directly with God and is able to make things happen in the real world by manipulating her "junk" world.
lauraroxie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Grace McCleen has given us a beautifully written story of ten year old Judith McPherson. Judith has been brought up in a small, poor town by her stern and humorless father who belongs to a strict fundamentalist religion. This small group of believers are Judith¿s only family. We find out slowly throughout the book what happened to her mother and find that Judith carries this guilt wrapped around her like an old blanket. Because of her faith she is not allowed to participate in assemblies at school and her father is known for going door to door throughout the town teaching that the end of the world is right around the corner. Because of this she has become the target of several bullies at school, primarily one boy named Neil. In order to escape from the cold and seemingly loveless relationship with her father and the problems at school she has created a world in her room called the Land of Decoration. She has made it from all sorts of rubbish, clay, pipe cleaners, fabrics and any bits and pieces she can find. It is a symbol of the land she has been taught in which all believers will live after Armageddon. We begin the novel as the bullying reaches new levels. It is a Sunday evening and Judith is afraid to go to school in the morning as Neil has threatened to put her head down a toilet and she fears she will die. She tries to think of a way to stop this and remembers that snow once caused school to be cancelled. So she thinks about snow and creates snow in her Land of Decoration. The Voice first appears here, one that will at first appear to Judith to be the voice of God, but will later take on aspects that bring this into question. When she awakes the next morning her town is covered with piles of unpredicted snow and she believes that she has caused this miracle, the first of many. Judith is wise beyond her years and sees life simply in black and white, but as the book moves along and she finds the miracles have a life of their own, and that she cannot always control them life takes on many shades of gray. Grace McCleen has given Judith a voice that comes through as thought provoking and truthful. Her descriptions are moving and will catch at your heart. Judith looks at ordinary things through not so ordinary eyes and introduces us to a world with sumptuous clarity. She sees a life beneath the ordinary teeming with colors and movement, where ordinary things take on unordinary features. The story moves along quickly and Judith must decide whether to listen to the Voice or her own convictions. We learn along with Judith, what lengths she will go to in order to try to repair the damage her miracles may have done. It is a story about the strength of faith and parent -child relationships , good and evil. Truly a wonderful read.
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Judith McPherson is 10 years old, living with her father in a small town in England,  when she becomes the target of a school bully, Neil Lewis. Judith is different from her peers, mainly due to her religious upbringing, which centers on an impending Armageddon. To escape the loneliness, Judith constructs her own version of The Land of Decoration - a representation of what the world will look like after Armageddon.As Judith deals with Neil, she becomes inspired by the words of a guest speaker at her church. He talks at length about having faith in God and the power of miracles.  That evening, as she dreads the next school day, she contemplates the Brother Michael¿s words. Judith decides to wish for snow, and she sets out to make fake snow on her Land of Decoration, praying the whole time. As she prays, she begins to hear a voice, pushing her to pray more. When she wakes up the next morning, her town is covered in snow.Judith, believing that she performed a miracle, now sets her sights on Neil. However, as bad things happen, Judith realizes that power can lead to destruction. Eventually her actions begin to affect her father, and as he begins to lose faith in God, Judith's love for her father and God are put to the ultimate test.The Land of Decoration is a fast-paced, moving novel that sucks you in from the first word. Judith is a believable and sympathetic character, and her father is equally compelling. Seeing the world through Judith's eyes reminds you of how innocent and vulnerable children are.I am not a believer in Armageddon, so I wasn't sure if I would like this novel. I am so glad I read it, despite my reservations, because The Land of Decoration is so much more than a novel about Armageddon. It¿s a story of faith, parental love and doing the right thing ¿ themes that can resonate with any reader, despite your religious persuasion.
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm really not sure what I think of this book. The young ten year old, Judith, was wonderful and I so hated to read about her bullying in school. Religious fervor and faith is all she knows, her whole bedroom reflects this and this makes her a freak at school. Her and her father their church is the only family she has. She believes she is peaking to God and creating miracles. The book actually gets pretty dark but I'm not sure I at all like the resolution. It i well written but somehow confusing at the same time. Can't really explain how I feel as I have never read anything with which it compares. Strange and interesting, showing the many conflicting views of faith..
swivelgal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an odd book to review. It was well written and hard to put down. I think the story will stay with me for a while, too. However, when I got to the end, I was confused. I read it several times and never seemed to make sense of it. Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes, to a close friend who might be able to explain it to me.
sweans on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a haunting piece, that I'd highly recommend to those who enjoy a pretty bit of prose. You'll ache for the tragic character of Judith who is lost in a world of make believe designed to help her escape from taunts extreme bullying from her peers. She's raised by a single grieving father who himself doesn't live in reality and instead in a world of seemingly unwavering faith. This book is full of gorgeous descriptions, and definitely worth your time.
KatyBee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The premise of The Land of Decoration is intriguing. It is narrated in first-person by Judith, a lonely, young girl being raised in a religion that believes the end of the world coming soon. She has created an entire world in her bedroom, constructed of paper, felt, clay, and other found materials, and it is populated it with tiny people, animals, scenery, buildings, etc. As the story progresses, she believes that she has been given special powers by God to perform miracles. The questions in the story would be great for a discussion group - is Judith completely sane or completely deluded? How do children develop in extremely isolated environments? Could God possibly talk directly to people? The characters in the story are well developed - her Father is haunting and complicated, a school bully named Neil Lewis is deviously cruel, and a special school teacher is a wonderful, sympathic person and a true relief after all the other bizarre, cold, and negative people in Judith's life. The members of the church group are especially strange.I think Grace McCleen has created a unique novel with an interesting, British flavor. It was a compelling read for the most part. But personally, I ended up wishing for a bit more depth by the end of the book. There were moments of excellent, evocative writing, but by the end, the plot and the ending seemed to wear a bit thin.
Twink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Every year there seems to be a book that stays with me long after I've turned the last page. And when someone asks me for a good book recommendation, it's the first one that comes to mind. The Land of Decoration - a debut novel by Grace McCleen is one of those books. Ten year old Judith McPherson lives in England with her father, her mother having passed away. She attends school, but is bullied and isolated, primarily because of the religious beliefs that she and her father follow. And sometimes Judith escapes into her own little world - one she has created in her room from rubbish. "There is a world in my room. It is made from things no one else wanted and it is made with things that were my mother's, that she left to me, and it has taken most of my life to make." She calls this world The Land of Decoration. She has taken this name from the book of Ezekiel - the land of milk and honey, a paradise for the faithful in the afterlife - The Promised Land. For Judith, it is where she will see her mother again. When Judith transforms her Land of Decoration into a snow covered blizzard and it happens in reality, she believes she is responsible. " Miracles happen because someone made them and because someone, somewhere, had faith." And she's doubly sure she's responsible as God told her she was. The bullying amplifies, as does the unrest at the factory Judith's father works at. And so does Judith's belief that she has the power to create miracles and change things. And God's voice is getting louder. I was so mesmerized by this book. I couldn't read it straight through, but had to put it down and come back later as my emotions were in a turmoil. Judith's voice was heartbreaking in so many ways. McCleen has created a character in Judith that just grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I found myself stopping to ponder many of her views. I wanted so badly to help her as she faced so much more than a ten year old should. McCleen's depictions of the other main players are just as well done. Judith's father is another poignant portrayal that was difficult to accept and read at times. McCleen's books explores so many themes - love, hate, tolerance, persecution, belief, faith and more, but ultimately is about the love between a parent and child. I wonder how much of Judith's story is Grace's story. She was raised in a fundamentalist religious environment and has a strong interest in miniatures as well. I think readers are either going to love or hate McCleen's book, much like Emma Donoghue's Room. This reader loved it. (so did Emma Donoghue)
jurai2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book grabbed me from the first page. I would love to be inside McCleen's head and see if the images she painted match the ones I'm seeing. I appreciated that the book is in a 10-year-old's language--she didn't know what certain things/phrases were, unlike other books written by adults that are meant to be told by a young person. Though the story dragged a bit in the middle, it quickly picked up again. It left me wanting more, to find out what happens to Judith and her father.
SamSattler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Grace McCleen has written an extraordinary debut novel. The problem is that it is difficult to speak of The Land of Decoration without inadvertently spoiling its impact for future readers. I am, however, going to give it a shot.The book¿s central character is little Judith McPherson. Judith is a precocious ten-year-old whose life centers around her belief that she and her father are living in the end days. Because time is running out for the world, Judith and her father regularly knock on the doors of strangers hoping to convince a few of them that they need to change their lives before it is too late. That the McPhersons are seen as neighborhood kooks is bad enough. A much worse problem for Judith is that her religious ways have caught the attention of the class bully, a kid determined to make every minute she spends in school as miserable as possible. Until Judith¿s ineffective teacher is replaced by a long term substitute, she does not stand a chance against the bully and his pals. But, when the new teacher¿s efforts to protect Judith from the little monster only make things worse, Judith comes up with a plan of her own. For such a little girl, Judith is a big-picture person. Her plan, one she stumbles into by accident, is as dangerous as it is effective. Then, when Judith realizes that the plan has serious side effects, side effects that often blow up in the face of her and her father, she decides it is time to stop. But will she be allowed to stop before it is too late? Are things out of her hands now?The Land of Decoration is one of those books that can be read on several levels, a book whose meaning will vary from reader to reader. It is about the relationship between a little, single-parent girl and her father, a relationship that is often strained and confusing to the child. It is about what happens when a child suffers a personal crisis and none of the adults in her world take her hinted pleas for help seriously. It explores the power of hardcore religious faith to dominate every waking moment of true believers, even ¿ maybe especially - children. Simply put, there is a lot going on in The Land of Decoration, certainly much more than appears at first glance.As Judith works her way through a personal crisis that would bring many adults to their knees in despair, the reader will begin to wonder what is real and what is not. Judith McPherson is such a special little girl that it is easy to believe that what she describes is as real as the clothes she puts on every morning. But Judith McPherson is such a ¿special¿ little girl that it is easy to believe that she is losing her grip on reality. Readers will have to decide for themselves.As for me, I remain somewhat mystified by Judith McPherson.Rated at: 4.0
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reason for Reading: Very intriguing plot captured my interest.This is a tough book to review. I loved parts of it and disliked other parts of it. Mainly, I adored the main character, 10yo Judith, in whose voice the narrative is written. She is naive and not always a reliable narrator but we are given events from her point of view as she sees them happen. I read the book very quickly over two days and had a hard time putting the book down. Parts of it were just lovely, other parts I heartily disagreed with. As a Christian, I don't feel the author is making a grand statement one way or the other about Christianity as a whole. I do think she is using this powerful message of father/daughter relationship, a mother's death, a girl's bullying because of her religion to show that bad things happen, even when we have the best intentions. That fanaticism of anything is never good. That God does not "let" bad things happen, we make our own choices and suffer the consequences of them, as rightly we should.Judith carries this book. She and her father belong to this unnamed religious fringe group (never named, but disclaimed to be Mormons) which is obsessed with the End Times. Otherwise they seem harmless enough, much of their Christian doctrine can be found in true Christian denominations but then it has been twisted in a way to make it what it is in this book. This may offend some Christian readers, but I take it that it is fiction and that these kind of kooky Christian sects do does exist though they are not the norm. This group for the most part follows Christ; it is its obsession with Armageddon which removes it from the focus of Christ. Non-Christians may find the book too full of Christian references, Bible quotations and simple plain Christian living; this may annoy them or unfortunately make them think this fringe group is somehow representative of "normal" Christianity.These are the things I didn't like about the book; the constant fighting in my head with the representation of these "Christians". Something profound would be said and then something equally laughable would be said. As to the story otherwise, it was very good. Judith is a naive girl who asks big questions of her father, the grown-ups at church, about religion and life. She is always asking "why?" and she is respected for her clever questions. At school it is the same, except with the other children, and one boy in particular, who bullies and teases her relentlessly because she is an outcast from them. Not allowed to attend morning assembly, wearing plain clothes, and talking easily about God, Armageddon and the Den of Iniquity of the modern world. No matter what is happening in this world around her; her being bullied, her dad being a scab, boy's taunting their house in the evening's Judith does believe in God and talks to him. He has started to answer her back and miracles have started to happen. Perhaps this is all in the confused girl's head or perhaps she is a real mystic. But you will fall in love with Judith and root for her as she tries to cope with a sad life that left her motherless and alone with a father who does everything he can for her but does not know how to show love and affection. This book is going to take some time for me to ruminate on before I really decide whether I think it was just OK or Good. I did like it; I'm just not sure how much. The ending was underwhelming and with all the religion/God emphasis throughout I expected something more uplifting than what we were given. The book did have some moments of sage wisdom and at other times I was left shaking me head. The instructions for making a hot air balloon, I do understand their significance but as an ending it leaves one dumbstruck. If you love stories about people pondering the purposes of God in their lives this will be the book for you.
Her_Royal_Orangeness on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don¿t mind books that are sad or maybe even a little bit dark. They¿re like a rainy day, grey and melancholy but with the assurance that the sun will shine again. But ¿The Land of Decoration¿ goes well beyond that and I found it almost unbearable to read. It¿s like a hurricane - relentless and terrifying and destructive. When I finished this book, I felt destroyed and devastated. Everything about ten-year-old Judith¿s life is depressing. Her mother died when she was born, her father is emotionally distant, they are members of a cult/sect with disturbingly bizarre members, she¿s bullied at school, she has no friends. Her only refuge is the Land of Decoration, an imaginary world she creates out of bits of found things, but even this becomes something sinister as Judith descends into a kind of crazed religious mania. But the thing is, Grace McCleen is unquestionably talented. She perfectly captures the voice of this tortured girl, the characterizations are rich, the descriptions are vivid, the storytelling is compelling, the pacing is exactly right. And she presents a convincing argument that skewed religious beliefs can create the exact opposite of what true faith is about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Grief tends to be sad that is why it isn't all smiles and assurances that everything will be alright. It is a process of coming to terms, of healing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is it really the voice from God each time while Judith talking with? I am so confusing toward the end of the story. Then I realize this is not a book that shows you how to grow your faith or what you should do as a Christina in this fast changing world,but a book takes you to think deeply. The story is very touching, I was being very emotional while reading the book. I don't know what to say now because i have complicated feeling inside and racing thoughts after I read this book. It is a little depressing. The ending is a little weird.