By Ekta R. Garg
November 12, 2014
Rated: Bordering on Borrow it
A young girl tries to deal with her mother’s violent death but finds it difficult with her father’s increasingly unstable state. When the girl’s fourth grade teacher intervenes, she finds some solace in his help. They begin to regain some semblance of a normal life, but when her father reveals a secret the girl must decide how much she can trust him again. Author Andrew Toy shares this story in the well-intentioned but ultimately lightweight book I Am the Lion.
Lydia spends her days trying to comprehend the loss of her mother. She no longer speaks to anyone, becoming mute and answering questions with a nod or a shake of the head. Her father, once a warm and ebullient person, now spends his days either snapping at Lydia or mourning his wife’s death. Lydia’s only sense of comfort comes from a stuffed lion her mother gave her several years earlier, but even the lion can’t ease the constant pain.
Her teacher notices that Lydia hasn’t made any progress in recovering from her grief and offers to help her by allowing her to stay after school for informal therapy sessions. Lydia’s father, Henry, doesn’t believe her teacher has anything of value to offer but agrees to the after-school sessions anyway. As part of the deal, Lydia’s teacher requests Henry to join the sessions. Henry agrees with reluctance.
The sessions do help Lydia to an extent, but they don’t contribute to Henry’s own healing. Frustrated and confused by Henry’s erratic reactions, Lydia’s teacher starts to press for answers. In a dramatic moment, Henry makes a startling confession and completely changes everything Lydia knows as truth.
Author Andrew Toy makes a gallant effort to share the depth of a child’s grief and succeeds to an extent. The portions from Lydia’s point of view will certainly touch readers’ hearts. The untimely death of a family member, handled well in a story, can evoke sympathy from readers, and Toy does just that.
The sections of the story focusing on Henry don’t quite achieve their full goal, however. Henry comes across as slightly manic; while some of the situations in the book might reflect real-life grief, most of them feel overdrawn, almost like a caricature of parents in this situation. The one saving grace of these sections is Toy’s sincerity in relaying them.
Also, readers might feel slightly discomfited by the head bobbing in many scenes. If Toy wanted to convey an omniscient point of view, he hasn’t quite accomplished it. Given the fact that only a handful of characters populate the entire story readers won’t have trouble keeping track of who feels what, but the head bobbing will pull readers out of the story enough to annoy them.
With some editing Toy’s story could indeed have a deep impact on its intended audience. Readers may want to read I Am the Lion keeping its limitations and its potential for improvement in mind.