I read this book recently and was very moved. It is an amazing book but a very hard book. I dont mean, of course, that the style or language is hard. Its just that the book is hard. It is hard to accept, hard to take in, hard to understand.
The story is about a boy named Jess Aarons who wants to be the fastest runner in his fifth grade class. All throughout his summer break, he gets up early every morning to practice running on his familys farm. When he finally goes back to school, he is confident that there is no one in his grade who can run as fast as he can. Then, a new girl walks over to the boys side of the playground and outdistances him easily. At first, Jess is a little annoyed but soon he and Leslie become close friends. Jess was just a lonely boy but Leslie begins to show him secrets about life that that he never knew before. Together, Jess and Leslie create the magical and secret world of Terebithia, which they rule over, and no one else can enter their special kingdom. Then, one rainy day, Jess loses Leslie. She slips quietly out of his life just like she had slipped into it. It is then that Jess must figure out if he is able to live life alone.
The thing I thought was most interesting about the book was the contrast between Leslies family and Jess family. Jess lives on a farm with his parents and four sisters. His family is not rich and has financial struggles but you would still expect a rather happy family. Jess family isnt happy. His older sisters are bossy and silly. His littlest sister is spoiled and his mother is always cross and sharp. His father is always tired and he doesnt understand Jess at all. Only his other little sister, May Belle is a friend to him and even she is only six, after all.
Leslies family is different. She has no siblings and both of her parents are authors. They love her and they moved out into the country simply for her sake. They didnt want to get too caught up in money and success and as Leslie tells Jess They wanted to focus on the things that really matter.
Doesnt it seem strange, then, that it is Jess family who goes to church and Leslies that have never gone? This part of the book is what caught my attention the most. Jess family is going to the Easter service at their church and Leslie asks if she can come as well. Jess tells her that it is boring and she will wish she had not come but Leslie is firm. During the service, Jess pays no attention to what the preacher is saying. He knows the story all too well and he is not interested in hearing it again. Afterwards the following conversation takes place between him and Leslie:
Gee, Im really glad I came. (said Leslie) Jess turned to Leslie in disbelief. It was better than a movie.
No, Im not. And she wasnt. He could tell by her face. That whole Jesus thing is really interesting isnt it?
What dyou mean?
All of those people wanting to kill him when he hadnt done anything to hurt them. She hesitated. Its really kind of a beautiful story-like Abraham Lincoln or Socrates-or Aslan.
It aint beautiful, May Belle broke in, its scary. Nailing holes right through somebodys hand.
May Belles right. Jess reached down into the deepest pit of his mind. Its because were all vile sinners that God made Jesus die.
Do you think thats true.
He was shocked. Its in the Bible, Leslie.
She looked at him as if she were going to argue, then seemed to change her mind. Its crazy isnt it? She shook her head. You have to believe it but you hate it. I dont have to believe it, and I think its beautiful.
Isnt this too common? People who have to believe the Bible often hate it. And then, sometimes there are those people who dont have to believe it but do because they love it and think it is beautiful.