Matt (Matilda) Black has been drifting from town to town, away from home, polite society, and her past, when she meets Edmund, a wandering witch who has a bit of an identity problem. Matt uses her magical gift of speaking with inanimate objects to make friends with a ghost of a haunted house (the ghost happens to be an old friend of Edmund's), who starts Edmund and Matt on the journey to recover Edmund's lost memories. An imaginative, engaging, and well-written urban fantasy that made me seek out Hoffman's other books.
A Red Heart of Memories
Past the Size of Dreaming - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
I'd highly recommend both of these for any fans of Charles de Lint - the combination of earth magic with contemporary young characters reminds me a lot both in theme and feel of a lot of de Lint's writing.
'A Red Heart of Memories' tells the story of Matt, a homeless young(ish) woman who has the ability (probably due to past drug abuse) to mentally speak with inanimate objects. She meets a drifter, Edmund, who communes with 'spirit' and together they set out to recover his past, finding his childhood friends, and meeting a ghost in a haunted house who has a lot to do with the strangenesses of the past....
However, in 'A Red Heart of Memories', while I liked both the writing and the overall ambiance of the book, I did have a few problems with it.
I found the fact that all of the characters were 'damaged goods' dealing with or trying to overcomes childhood traumas/abuse a little bit irritating, and that the language/ideas about overcoming abuse were a little bit too based in today's pop-psych concepts... finding and rejoining with the "inner child" and all that sort of stuff.
(In my personal opinion, if your body's natural defenses have 'blocked' a traumatic memory, there's a good reason for it, and dredging it up to relive the pain is probably just about the worst/ most unhealthy thing you can do.)
I also felt that a large segment of the middle of the book, (the part dealing with 'gold') while charming, original and interesting, didn't forward the plot at all, or go anywhere (and it's not even brought up in the sequel at all!).
'Past the Size of Dreaming,' the sequel, I thought was a more successful work.
In it the characters are more concerned with who they are now, and exploring their powers, growing as people - not being obsessed by the past . The plot - involving a search to discover what they have been gathered to accomplish, in the face of mysterious occult opposition - is more coherent.
The ensemble cast of characters is diverse and interesting, and although not all questions are answered, the magical 'feel' of the book makes it all worthwhile.
This book was a huge disappointment. I only read the first 105 pages, and then I just had to quit. The book reads like a grade school primer: short, simple sentences and no transition from one topic to another.
The two main characters have magical abilities, but don't let that fool you into thinking this is a fantasy. This book is really centered on the two characters' personal problems and past history. In a nutshell, the book (or at least the first 105 pages) explores Matt's and, in particular, Edmund's disturbing experiences as teenagers.
good,fast reading for those who have a good imagination and like a little magic.