Saturday, April 07, 2012

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter

humming roomMost people assume that being strong or tough is the skill that will protect you and save you, help you survive when you're in a dangerous situation, but Roo Fanshaw sees it differently. Her special skill is hiding, being able to disappear at a moment’s notice. Roo has spent most of her life hiding, finding the smallest spaces to curl herself into. It is in these small spaces that she feels able to breathe freely; in fact, open spaces make her feel enclosed, as if she can't breath. It is Roo’s hiding skill that saves her life when her parents are murdered in the trailer where they lived. Roo was hiding underneath it, close to the earth. Roo feels she has a quiet connection to the earth and the life that dwells in it. She puts her ear close to the ground and she can hear, actually hear, the sound of life teeming beneath it –a kind of humming sound. Though she loves the quiet reflection of small safe places, Roo’s life doesn't stay quiet for long. After her parents die, a long-lost eccentric uncle agrees to take her in. She moves to his mansion on Cough Rock Island, a mansion that was once a hospital for children sick with tuberculosis, full of secrets and ghosts. Roo doesn't believe in ghost stories, but there are strange noises coming from the forbidden east wing of the house, and the locals are full of superstitious stories of the river and the mansion. But the river, the mansion, and life on the islands have their own story to tell. Since she came to Cough Rock, Roo is full of questions. Who gave her uncle those bloodied scratches across his face? What is that strange humming sound Roo hears through the wall? Who is that wild boy canoeing up and down the river? Roo is determined to come out of her hiding space (both physically and mentally) and learn the truth about the house and her family. Though everyone in the house tries to keep her away, Roo discovers a secret garden hidden in the center of the mansion, a garden locked away because it holds a tragic secret. This story is inspired by the classic "The Secret Garden." Though elements of the story unfold in a familiar way, the characters that Potter creates are quirky and likable. Roo is strong and feisty. The author has done an excellent job of giving readers a different angle on a familiar story. Reading The Humming Room may even inspire you to take a favorite classic tale, write what it would be like in a different time, with different characters, and see how the story unfolds. Review by Lizzy Healy