Book: The necessary beggar - Livre d'Or — LiveJournal

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Book: The necessary beggar
Thursday, 06 March 2008 at 03:23 pm

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Author: Susan Palwick

Details: (c) 2005 Susan Palwick; Pub Tor 2007; ISBN 0-765-34951-5

Verdict: The necessary beggar is absolutely endearing.

Reasons for reading it: papersky praised it, and I've generally found that papersky has exceptionally good taste.

How it came into my hands: Amazon book buying spree.

The necessary beggar is one of the most charming books I've read in a while. It's about a family of humanoid aliens marooned on our earth, which is something that used to be quite popular in YA books a few years ago, and I'm sure has been done lots of times before, but Palwick makes it seem fresh. It's not even slightly subtle about the fact that it's essentially a story about the refugee experience in a near future US, but it's a lot more than just polemic. The reason it works is because the alien planet that Zamatryna and her family originate from is very solidly drawn, with its own distinct culture, politics and even mythology. The two threads of the story, the past in Gandiffri leading up to the protagonists' exile, and their experiences as refugees in rural Nevada, intertwine very cleverly and create a satisfying whole.

The characterization is really lovely. I particularly appreciated the way that that characters who are often stereotypes, the over-earnest Evangelical preacher, and the redneck football player, the dissatisfied immigrant young men turning to drink and violence, are portrayed with a lot of sympathy and humanity. And the family themselves are really believable. Zamatryna is verging towards being a little too perfect, but generally a lot less bad than she could be.

Reading tNB made me feel warm and fuzzy. It manages to be genuinely sweet, without ever being sentimental. I loved the developing friendship between Timbor and Stan, and Lisa's Christianity, and the melodramatic but still almost believable love affair from Darotti's past. There's just an edge of political snark, but not a Message that overwhelms the book, and the issues are far more complicated than just, xenophobia is bad. I am not sure if the book is pitched at adults or teenagers; certainly I would have absolutely adored it as a young teenaged girl.

The only thing that disappointed me slightly is that the ending is too absolutely perfect and love conquers all. Love triumphing fits in with the general mode, it didn't come out of nowhere and you could see the development of the relationships. But love sorting out everything from interplanetary exile to the flaws in the US healthcare system is a bit much.

Whereaboooots: Reno
Moooood: touchedtouched
Tuuuuune: Elizabeth Mitchell: Little Liza Jane
Discussion: 5 contributions | Contribute something

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cartesiandaemon: default
Date:March 6th, 2008 03:06 pm (UTC)
36 minutes after journal entry, 03:06 pm (cartesiandaemon's time)
Ooh, yay. I read the first couple of chapters and am curious to know how it finishes, I'm glad it seems good. The beginning seemed very nice, I wanted to read on, but all a little cliche - the "contemporary US is strange if you're not used to it" part is well written, but I've read before elsewhere. But it seemed promising: eg. the religion, their post-camp life.

> humanoid aliens

I suppose they are. In my head they were humans, directly parallel to humans from another country. (And I suppose IIRC they were from a parallel universe not another planet, so might literally have been, but I don't know if anything might be revealed later.)

PS. Yes, I'm at work. Taking a break, should try to go back...
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Date:March 6th, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry
Yes, they are humans from a parallel dimension.

As for the ending: I didn't mean it to be perfect, merely hopeful. There's no guarantee that the INS thing will work out, and Max and Aliniana are still split up, and Betty's still in bad shape and hasn't even had the surgery yet. And as Timbor notes, even if things work out for the family, all those other families are still out there in the camp.

However, plenty of other people have had the same response to the ending, so I must not have done it as well as I could!

And I'm glad you both like the book!

Best wishes,
Susan Palwick
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livredor: livre d'or
Date:March 14th, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
8 days after journal entry, 06:03 pm (livredor's time)
Wow, I'm amazed and flattered that you showed up here to respond to my review! The internet is wonderful! (I am still getting my head round the idea that it's possible to be an author without being dead, so I didn't expect that you'd see this post as much as I probably should have expected.)

I did actually realize that the characters were humans from another dimension, rather than aliens (otherwise the blood test in the refugee camp would have given really weird results!) When I was talking about marooned aliens I was referring to the general group of books that The necessary beggar seems to fit with, not specifically to the particular setup of this book.

I take your point about the ending being hopeful rather than idealized. I did like the comments about how there are thousands of people who aren't being magically rescued by the power of true love. I think the ending perhaps felt a little out of balance with the scale of problems that the rest of the book had set up, rather than being actually unsuccessful in itself. But I did like the positive atmosphere, definitely.
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buymeaclue: default
Date:March 6th, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 12:15 pm (buymeaclue's time)
Oh, good. I've really liked the other Palwick stuff I've read, but for some reason I've been shy of this one. No idea why; maybe I'm saving it for when I need it. But it's always good to hear that it'll be worth the wait.
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hatam_soferet: default
Date:March 7th, 2008 04:00 am (UTC)
13 hours after journal entry
That was one of the ones I swiped and read on the way over. I liked it, too, although I didn't find it sweet really - more of a highly satisfying story.
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