Aaron Paul Lazar, March 25, 2013
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Divide by Zero by Sheila Deeth offers a unique perspective on community. Like a human patchwork quilt, this dramatic family novel provides intimate glimpses into the minds of dozens of characters. Some are sweet and submissive, like Mary. Others obsess over with “not being their fathers” (abusers), and end up fighting genetics their entire lives, like Peter. And yet others are innocent children, like the autistic girl Amelia, who appears in the last third of the book. Of all the characters, my favorite was the white cat, Garnet. Mystical and fundamental to the plot(s), she was quite endearing.
As a writer, I have never undertaken presenting so many points of view in one story. I marveled at how well Ms. Deeth told each distinctly different story with such authenticity.
There were moments of pure poetry within the pages. Here are a few of my favorite passages:
When speaking about a classroom, she wrote:
Sounds washed the room like paint brushes in water, muted with background blue, giving shade but no texture.
Here’s a passage from the autistic girl’s mind:
Amelia stretched her arms to feel the touch of air and drifting cobwebs, bark-dust singing, butterfly wings. Red sunshine warmed the lids of her closed eyes as she started to spin. Her feet scuffed earth, where stones or skeletons of leaves slipped into socks and caught between her toes. She moved as fast as thought while the air, pine-scented, grew earthy and cloudy, scratching in her throat till she fell down.
Like ripples in a pond, as events unfold"mundane or horrific"they propagate and touch every individual in unique and extraordinary ways.
This is not a book you will zoom through. It's not a page turner, or high action suspense. I actually read it slowly, over the course of several months. Beware, you may be lulled into a false sense of security by the vignettes that show each character undergoing his or her unique trials. But I guarantee you will never forget the characters or the horrific act that takes place very near the end of the story, and the spider web of connectivity that draws all characters into the human fabric of the tale.