Flora Belle Buckman is a 10 year old cynic. Her motto is “Do not hope; instead, observe.” One day, her neighbor receives a vacuum as a birthday present from her husband. And that is how the unanticipated occurrences begin.
An unassuming squirrel with only hunger on his mind is accidentally sucked up my the vacuum. When he comes out of this ordeal, Flora finds that he now has super powers. Being an avid reader of superhero comics, she automatically sets out to shape him to a be a real-life hero, and together they will “conquer villains, defend the defenseless, and protect the weak…or something.” What occurs is infinitely better.
The plot is goofy, and the majority of the characters are quirky, lovable, and downright weird. But at it’s heart, the story is about finding hope, love, and learning to see the beauty in the world and people around. Sounds cheesy, right? Trust me, it’s not. It’s not all light-hearted. Flora’s parents are divorced. Her mother is a romance writer who seems to love a hideous lamp more than her daughter. Her father is a sad man with a compulsive need to introduce himself who she only gets to see Saturday afternoons. Flora uses the excuse of being a cynic to shield herself from the misery of her father and the hurt from her mother’s neglect. She has closed herself off from the world. That is, until Ulysses, a newly intelligent, flying, poetry-writing, superhero of a squirrel, forces her to realize that perhaps she isn’t as cynical as she believes. But I don’t want to give too much away.
I have just one small complaint. One of the characters is a young boy who also comes from a broken home. At one point, he spouts off what is basically moral relativism (truth is subjective rather than objective). His aunt – Flora’s vacuum-wielding neighbor – rebuffs him, but the idea is never really resolved. I’m still somewhat confused as to what the author was trying to get at with that bit of dialogue. (If anyone has thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them.) However, it’s a minor part of the book, and doesn’t detract from the overall good message of the story.
Overall, this little book has more heart than the majority of adult fiction I come across day after day. The world would be a better place if more adult fiction held the same underlying current of hope. Whatever age you are, do yourself a favor and get a copy for yourself…and everyone else. Seriously. We can all use a little hope.