The Humming Room by Ellen Potter literally fell into my lap when a copy was delivered to the office direct from the author (apparently one of TILT’s old employees assisted as a consultant on the book). At first I was a little suspicious of a story being touted as “inspired by” the classic book The Secret Garden. But then again, I loved Clueless (which was a – loose – interpretation of Jane Austen’s Emma), so who was I to judge?
I’ll admit, I’m a big sucker for Y/A fiction. Part of me is always going to be a teenage girl, and there’s no way around it. However, I was fairly shocked by how the book began, with the aftermath of the brutal drug-related murder of main character Roo’s family, but it did the job of setting the unsettling tone of the tale. From there, Roo is shipped off to live with her reclusive uncle on Cough Rock Island on the St. Lawrence River, and what follows is a refreshing retelling of a beloved classic.
Roo is not an easily described, or likable, character, but you really grow to love her as she eventually discovers the secret garden on the island and comes into her own by caring for other living things. There are obvious, and sometimes heavy-handed parallels to The Secret Garden, but The Humming Room has its own charm, if only because of the unique setting of the Thousand Islands. I found myself trying to guess all the locations and people mentioned in the book and comparing her arrival to the region to my own two years ago. And I definitely appreciate that the hint of a love interest doesn’t take over the main plot of the story. If the author’s only goal was to introduce a whole new generation to the classic story of a troubled girl finding herself through bringing a dead garden back to life, then I’m satisfied with what I’ve read.
And I love that books have “trailers” now – genius!
Book cover from Better World Books