Reviewed by Brenda G.
Fergus and his Uncle Tally are digging for peat in a mountainside bog when Fergus finds a body, one of a child, in the bog. Is it a recent burial? The answer proves to be no, but proving this takes a while. The story is set in 1981, on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the two countries wrangle over the body, which has archaeological significance.
Other things of significance exist in Fergus’s world. He is studying for his university admissions exams, planning to be a doctor. His brother is in prison as a member of the Irish Republican Army and joins the hunger strike. The IRA seems to be insinuating itself further into Fergus’s life, but all is not quite what it seems. Fergus falls in love for the first time, with the daughter of a visiting archaeologist consulting on the matter of the bog child.
And giving the book its taste of magical realism, the bog child enters Fergus’s dreams. He can describe her appearance, her clothing, her voice, and her fate. He sees it all. He ties the famine that led to her death to a first century A.D. geological event and to the fear related to both the famine and the girl’s dwarf-like appearance.
Though this is a young adult novel, it takes its place among the best of YA literature. It is one not to be missed.
New York : Ember, an imprint of Random House. 2008. First Ember edition 2011. 322 pages.