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The Unfinished Angel

Review

The Unfinished Angel

In this tale of quirky characters and mystical beings, beloved author Sharon Creech gives fans a new perspective on the worries of the world, such as homelessness and child hunger. After developing a sizable fan base, Creech may be intentionally pushing at certain boundaries with this book about a young American girl named Zola Pomodoro who lives an adventuresome life in rural Switzerland while her father builds a school for children from all over the globe. Some authors choose a certain point in their careers to challenge social issues with their work, and this may explain why Creech is offering this treatise.

Zola’s father is an educator, and his goal is to teach peace and tolerance to youngsters from all nations in hopes of eradicating social evils. Zola is a social activist of her own merits and discovers local children hiding in a barn at night who don’t have parents, food, clothing, or shelter. Zola sets out to remedy their plight but not by herself. She insists that a local “angel” living in the tower near her home help her aid the starving children.

The “unfinished angel” is the primary narrator of this tale that centers on saving local children while a host of tangent plot lines circle at their own pace. A nasty neighbor who speaks Italian and throws garbage in Zola’s yard is disarming with her temperament. Zola’s dad is distant and distracted but always a constant in her life until mother and brother arrive (without explanations as to why they weren’t there in the first place.) And then there is Zola herself:

“Zola, she is intrigueful to me. In her many-layered clothings, with her chippy-choppy hair and the eyes with the big black poppils, in her sometimes bossy way, she has also the soft heart of a bunny. The soft heart is also a smart heart because it is not soft for every puny silly thing, but over the things that are matterful. Are you knowing what I am meaning?”

This is the angel describing her new acquaintance, and Creech has decidedly projected a special image for this unique character while pushing the envelope of standard English. It is never quite determined what “unfinished” means, but the internal dialogues and the speeches delivered by the angel are colorful and creative to the point of possibly explaining the endearing moniker. It’s obvious that the angel who shadows Zola on her quest for social justice is a being that didn’t get everything from the heavenly factory that he or she (it’s never clear which) should have, including a strong command of the English language. Or perhaps he/she is speaking a language unknown to anyone but other angels.

Whatever Creech’s purpose for writing THE UNFINISHED ANGEL, she aptly captures the reader’s attention with the extra effort it takes to comprehend the narrator’s speech patterns. After a chapter or two of getting used to the awkward syntax and creative word inventions such as “flooshing” and “stickly,” the angel’s words become charming and meaningful as if you are being taught a new language while you read the book. In spite of the special energy occasionally required to follow the story  because of the “flooshing” back and forth from character to character, the angel wraps things up nicely with “Sometimes a people needs an angel and sometimes an angel needs a people,” which is so very, very true.

Reviewed by Joy Held on March 8, 2011

The Unfinished Angel
by Sharon Creech

  • Publication Date: March 8, 2011
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0061430978
  • ISBN-13: 9780061430978