A Funeral for an Owl

A Funeral for an Owl
Author:
Illustrator: Andrew Candy
Published: November 3, 2013
What kind of a boy would it take to convince two high school teachers to risk their careers? Times have changed since Jim Stevens chose to teach. Protocol designed to protect children now makes all pupil/teacher relationships taboo – even those that might benefit a student. What kind of boy would cause Jim to risk his career? A boy who can clothe a word in sarcasm; disguise disdain with respect. So what is it that Jim finds he has in common with 14-year-old Shamayal Thomas as they study the large framed photograph of an owl that hands above the fireplace? It is Aimee White’s owl, to be specific. At least, that’s how Jim thinks of it. A powerful exploration of the ache of loss, set in a landscape where broken people can find each other.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

December 8, 2014

Jane Davis has the insight and sensitivity of a great writer; with a little more refinement, she could be a great writer. This story is about a school teacher accidentally stabbed as he tried to break up a fight at school. As he recovers in hospital, he remembers his childhood and the people who left him. People always leave him, and that’s why he avoids a relationship with a female colleague, the second on the scene of the accident and the one who visits him regularly in hospital because he doesn’t really have anyone else—except a student in need that he has reached out to.

The story has several themes. One is the downside of the rules of disclosure and child protection laws when a teacher comes across instances of abuse in a child’s family, and the limitations put on a teachers’ ability to help when a student needs help beyond what can be given within the school’s walls. Another is the affect a missing person has on those that care for the person, and the third is the challenges faced by those living ‘on the wrong side of the tracks’, particularly in relationship to negotiating the gangs.

Davis is skilled at creating real, complex characters that we can relate to and quickly care about. Their circumstances draw out our empathy and increase our understanding of a lifestyle that is probably foreign to most readers. The plot revolves around the suggestion that the two teachers may get together, the question of whether he will live or die and what will happen to the neglected boy with the candid opinions and insightful perception of his two teacher’s lives. As in real life, things do not run smoothly or tie up neatly, and yet the book comes to a satisfying conclusion that is neither soppy nor depressing.

This is a book to which I would love to award 5 stars, but this is not possible due to some formatting issues (blank lines between every paragraph), the occasional clumsy prose constructions and several instances of poor grammar that, though not noticed by your average reader, would not pass an editor in a major publishing house—and this is the benchmark that the Awesome Indies measures against in awarding 4 stars. I have pointed out these issues to the author and I believe that the formatting will be fixed.

Books in this series:
I Stopped Time
These Fragile Things

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