Anyone who knows me well knows that C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia was a huge factor in the person I’ve become. I cannot say I’ll read them again, but when I read them in my mid-teens I was somehow different aftwards.
I remember devouring anything that was in any way associated with the Narnia stories and now still get a small thill out of mentions of the Wardrobe or Aslan like when I saw a car with ASLAN on the license plate outside Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago. Or when I remember the time I ate dinner off a table with a pedistal made out of the packing crate in which the Wardrobe travelled to Wheaton College.
Back when I was frequenting the bulletin boards on a forum discussing the Narnia movies I heard mention of a book about a girl who looked for the door to Narnia. I found it on Amazon and put it on my wishlist, expecting to know when I should buy it. I eventually broke down and purchased it about a month ago, and began reading it last week.
The book, A Door Near Here, is not the light fiction/fantasy I was expecting. It is a very heavy story about alcoholism that resulted in child neglect. It is about four siblings who stuck together and survived a very nasty part of their lives.
Katherine, the eldest sibling has a lot on her plate. Besides being only 15 years old, and all that that entails, she has been responsible for ther younger siblings for several years while her alcoholic mother worked long hours and dated promiscously. After losing her job, Katherine’s mother drank more and spent much of her time, intoxicated, in her bedroom, leaving her four children to fend for themselves.
When the story opens, Katherine’s main concern, apart from feeding the family from an empty larder, is her youngest sibling, Alisa who has developed a strange attraction to the woods behind her school. Alisa believes that a door to Narnia lies beyond the fence, in the forbidden woods. She also believes that if she finds the door she can bring back a magical cure for her mother.
Katherine thinks that Alisa is losing her mind and tries to disuade her from looking for the door and believing in Narnia and Aslan. Katherine’s religion teacher is no help because he seems to be meddling in her life and encouraging Alisa to belive in Narnia.
This story, although it ends on a positive note, is not a happy one. It doesn’t have the magic of Bridge to Terribithia, another book that elicits images of Narnia. The book kept me interested. The writing was never clumsy or stilted. The characters were compelling enough – not perfect, any of them. The jacket of A Door Near Here explains that the book was the author’s Masters Thesis. It is certainly the most interesting Master’s Thesis I’ve read.