This hardcover was $ .25 cents at a book sale. The kid on the cover looked, well, calm and the premise was an interesting one. Hmmm.
Leese may be comfortable flopping into all of these strange yoga positions, but Ellie’s a little out of her element. Still, when her dad calls her out of class, Ellie’s a bit upset. She had planned to spend the rest of the day at Leese’s house. This better be something big….
It sorta is. If anybody else’s grandmother had died it would be really sad and a big deal and something to cry about. But nobody’s ever loved or even liked Aurelia, and Ellie barely knew her – just enough to be scared of her. But apparently Aurelia thought of Ellie before she died…..
When Aurelia’s lawyer informs Ellie that she is the heir of Aurelia’s property, Hart Farm, Ellie’s shocked. It’s not like she inherited a castle or anything, but there’s something strange about suddenly owning a house that you’ve never seen before. And there’s an added request. Apparently there’s a chest of old diaries in the attic. Swell. But Aurelia wants Ellie to read these diaries as part of her inheritance. That’s strange.
Ellie’s dad is sure that Aurelia’s trying to hurt Ellie – maybe drive a wedge in her relationship with him. But Ellie’s not so sure. Maybe Aurelia just wants Ellie to learn about her family history. Whatever did make Aurelia such a thorny, crotchety old thing?
Ellie’s about to see her family – and herself – in a totally new light….
There were so many points that I divided them into additional sections to keep myself straight….
I had no clue of this when I picked up the book, but ‘mountain pose’ is actually a term used to describe a particular yoga position. Ellie and her friend Leese attend many yoga classes and Ellie applies the meditations and positions she learns there in everyday life situations. At the end of the story her inner peace is reflected by her ability to perfectly execute the mountain pose position. She uses the position to calm herself whenever she’s nervous.
I really appreciated what might be called the ‘backbone theme’ of the story – Ellie’s discovery of her family history through the diaries and how it affected her own life. It is profound how often curses (I mean particular sins and temptations, not witchery) remain with families; how an ancestor’s struggles often trickle down through the generations and affect his descendants.
It’s a fascinating theme, but one which can be abused, as it is in this case. Because, while a parent’s failure severely affects a child, that child is ultimately responsible for his own actions and cannot excuse his actions on account of ‘conditioning’. In the case of Ellie, violence and dysfunctional relationships have plagued her family for at least four generations. She is the first to finally break the cycle and be connected with her father and step-mother.
While I believe that knowledge about one’s ancestors is valuable and can help inform one’s perspective and actions, it should not define or be a mainstay in one’s life. This is what the diaries become to Ellie. She almost lives in them, and in a freaky turn of events, the occurrences in her life and her great-grandmother’s parallel. She is thus able to know a limited amount of the future.
Ellie is supposed to be seen as the first break in the chain of abuse and dysfunctionality, and her relationship with her father was much better than in previous generations. However, it’s still less than healthy.
Ellie’s father is unhappy when Aurelia leaves her house to Ellie, because he thinks she’s trying to hurt Ellie in some way. Ellie takes a ‘come on, Dad, get over it attitude’ to his concern. He especially dislikes the idea of Ellie reading her ancestors’ diaries, so she does it behind his back, and hides her activities from him.
Ellie becomes upset with her father when he suggests the possibility of moving to Hart Farm and exclaims, “We are not leaving Hampton, Dad! No matter what happens! You can’t do that to me!” [pg. 64] What she doesn’t appreciate is that the only reason he is considering the move is because it may be the only way he can provide for her. She later excuses keeping secrets from him because, “she couldn’t be sure these days, that Dad would see things her way.” [pg. 95] She also says that “cracking that code behind his [her father’s] back would feel like getting even.” [pg. 88]
When her father suggests moving to Wisconsin, Ellie explodes.
Then, one Friday in the middle of May, Ellie arrived home to find Dad waiting for her in the middle of the living room.
“Come sit down,” he said. “I have news.”
Ellie didn’t sit down. She didn’t even take off her backpack. “What?”
“I’ve been offered a job, Smidge. In Wisconsin.”
Elle could feel every muscle tense, making a hard shell around her panic. “I’m staying here, Dad. I don’t care what you say. I’m staying here. I’ll move in with Leese.”
“Oh, honey, please. This is already hard enough without—“
“So, does that mean you took it already?”
“No. But I’d be a fool not to. It’s a great salary; they’re genuinely excited about my work; we have family there, and—“
“I’m not leaving my friends, Dad. I am going to Hampton High School. I’ve already chosen my courses.”
“Ellie, come on. Sit down.”
“And I’m not leaving Hart Farm, either.”
“We’ll come back every summer and for vacations. You’ll be a frequent flier in no time!” Dad actually smiled.
“No! You can’t do this to me, Dad!” Ellie wheeled around and stormed up the stairs, but she stopped halfway to yell back at him, “And what about Mary? I thought you really loved her!” She kept going into her room, slammed the door, then tore off her backpack and let it crash to the floor. She threw herself on the bed, but couldn’t cry. Not even close. [pgs. 225-226]
Their relationship is better than many that I’ve read in children’s books, but not what I would want as a model or even example for my children.
Throughout the story, Ellie’s father is interested in a woman named Gayle. They call each other and go on dates together and there seems to be a vague idea (a threat in Ellie’s opinion) that they will get married someday, but in the end, he marries another woman – a divorcee.
Leese has a crush on Brian, a boy from math class. She and Ellie talk about him and whether Leese should pass him a note during school, and halfway through the book Brian asks Leese to go out with him, which Ellie says, “didn’t actually mean dating, just officially liking each other.” [pg. 101]
Some of the diary entries refer to sweethearts and crushes.
Ellie mentions that Sally took her aside to talk about ‘the facts of life’.
Ellie listens to the Beatles and dreams of buying their complete collection. She has Beatle posters in her bedroom. Ellie mentions that Leese’s brothers taught her “a silly dance – a bunch of arm and hip moves that they’d practiced to Beatles songs, ending in hysterical giggles.” [pg. 110]
While reading one of the diary entries, Ellie becomes disappointed that the writer is no longer “that independent, defiant teenager” but has become a wife dedicated to serving her husband.
While looking through a fashion, magazine with Ellie, Mary comments that she’d “had to fight with [her] mother to wear skirts up to [her] knees.” [pg. 177]
At one point when Ellie’s father is unsure of what course of action he should take, Ellie tells him to do whatever makes him happy.
‘God’, ‘oh my God’, ‘d—’ (fully spelled), ‘Lord knows’, ‘Jeez’, and ‘bull’ are each used once or twice throughout the story.
Conclusion. Mountain Pose, as I have stated earlier, has a very interesting theme, and one which I wish had been handled better. But it is all of the accompanying elements that restrain me from recommending this book for purchase.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret