Review + Giveaway: Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s novel Under the Egg dazzled me with its complexity, its unexpected turns and its classic Shakespearean misdirection.
Early in the novel, I found the text interesting, yet without knowing precisely when, the depth and ingenuity of Fitzgerald’s writing crept up on me. The story is both profound and intricate and I could comfortably read it on any number of levels, each with its own kind of joy.
Theo’s bound by her uncle’s last words. She must delve into his mysterious legacy, go on a quest in search of an unknown treasure. Under the egg will lie both a treasure and a letter taking thirteen year old Theodora, Theo, into a world she pieces together like a painting, color by color, layer upon layer, as she delves into the puzzling enigma of her uncle’s secrets.
This lovely piece of writing encourages coming at it from different angles, grabbing the imagination and leading it into the past while connecting it to the present.
Unlike when Jack was alive, insuring a monthly veteran’s check, Theo now faces life with dwindling resources and a mother who passes her days drinking expensive imported tea while her mind meanders in search of new concepts in algebraic number theory.
While her mother’s mind dances to her own numerical rhythm, Theo’s sags under the looming reality of expenses coupled with the family having no money now that her adored Uncle Jack has died.
Brushing up against the teeming, vibrant life of New York, Theo now enlarges her physical and emotional landscape. She had always avoided outside forces. But, sleuthing into the mysterious legacy her uncle left her will not allow her to stand aloof. She stumbles into a beautiful friendship with Bodhi, the daughter of wealthy Hollywood producers, bringing forces into her world never before imagined.
The two team up to solve the riddle of what might be under the egg. On a shelf in her home, Theo studies a painting of an egg she believes is her uncle’s reference point. Under the egg could be a reference to the painting or it could be a symbol. She doesn’t know but she will find the truth.
Symbols do not have just one meaning, Theos realizes.
We each bring our own meaning to symbols. Her uncle’s words to look under the egg may have more symbolic meaning for her than she had at first realized.
I can tell you truly that, when you have survived a man-wrought machine that enslaved others for its bidding, murdered them for its pleasure, and sentenced the survivors to a lifetime of haunted memories, you have no appetite left for anything but freedom.
Using alcohol to brush over the surface of the egg painting, Theo and Bodhi find an undiscovered work of art. The complexity of the painting, Theo’s life set against the unknown past, and her search leads her toward endless possibilities and meanings.
Scraping off the superfluous to discover what lies beneath the surface crashes headlong into the horrors of the Holocaust. Theo’s life, until now, had been cave-like.
Forces outside of her cave lift her from darkened corners into the reality of today’s world and the impact of yesterday’s horrors upon the lives of people today. In scratching the surface of the egg painting, Theo will see the rich beauty of what lies beneath. People are not what they may seem. Dig deeper. Below the easy surface she will find truth and strength.
For Theo, her world constricted her vision until she dug beneath the vast landscape of her city. A treasure for her translated into a finding new pair of sneakers in her size or scoring a bag of slightly stale danishes that taste to her of heaven and freedom when compared to her usual dry oatmeal.
Theo’s distrust of others and her judgment of them disintegrates as she finds a new friend, discovers that when you scratch the surface of an object or a person you may find richness beyond belief. The solving of a mystery lies in not falling prey to a world grown too small but to opening her heart, mind and arms to the vast unknown that surrounds her, the secrets her uncle led her to unravel.
Under the Egg is one of the best mysteries, particularly for younger readers, I’ve read in years.
Memorable characters, an amazingly complex story with a solid historical backdrop and excellent writing—what more can a lover of all that is mysterious ask for?
Win a Copy of Under the Egg!
The lovely folks at Penguin have offered a copy of Under the Egg to one lucky CEFS reader. To win, all you need to do is fill out the form below. (U.S. folks only.)
Entries close on Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 11:59pm.
The giveaway has ended! Thanks to all who entered!
Disclosure: Review copy provided by the publisher.