When Lyza’s Mater dies of the flu in the pandemic of 1918, Lyza must figure out a way to keep her relatives from sending her Pater away to a place for people deemed crazy. He’s always been different, but Lyza knows he’s not crazy. To prove it, she’ll have to travel far and enlist the help of people she’s never met. In the process she’ll discover her own strength and her talents and find out how to forge ahead in her own life.
The Keening by A. LaFaye is a haunting story in more ways than one. First there’s the spirit that Lyza feels in her home the day a funeral passes by outside. Then there are all the sicknesses and deaths that visit the people in her Maine village. And there are also the carvings her Pater creates, the anguished souls he sees and must set free.
Finally, there’s the feeling of loss and longing throughout the story—Lyza’s longing for her mother, and her desire to have a worthwhile talent. Her friend Jake’s need to escape their small village for the big city of Portland. Her Pater’s wish to help the troubled souls that appear to him.
Author LaFaye creates a setting that’s appropriately dark, with scenes of foggy islands, woods with watching faces and lonely cabins. It matches the somber mood of the times, when even in a small village many people could be quickly lost to the flu. The haunting images LaFaye creates are apt to linger with you for a long time. I recommend The Keening for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 12 and up.