The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker is an amazing debut. The story of Ari, youngest of six sisters in a most dysfunctional family is told slant -- in language so poetic, so allusive, so enigmatic that for the first few pages I found myself agreeing with one of Ari's teachers later in the book as he reads one of her stories: "I haven't a clue what half of it means but I feel it, I see it, and on some level I understand it completely."
The puzzlement clears soon and it becomes obvious that Ari is telling her story in the only way she can --sideways because the full on reality is too harsh.
The novel follows Ari from eight -- when her father kills himself, her mother has a breakdown, and the sisters are doled out to various relatives -- to sixteen when she has an opportunity to put into action the lessons life has taught her. During those eight years, Ari bounces between wonderful, nurturing situations and people -- and other people and situations that will test all her resilience.
The beauty of the writing and the indomitable spirit of young Ari keep this book from being depressing. Horrible things happen -- but so do wonderful things.
Highly, highly recommended!