Sarah has decided not to return to school late in her senior year of high school. Nothing new ever happens; nothing is original there. As an artist, Sarah craves originality. She begins to follow a homeless artist named Earl around town, where she is often joined by ten-year-old Sarah or twenty-three-year-old Sarah. This is no hallucination; other people can see the alternate Sarahs as well. Her father doesn’t recognize ten-year-old Sarah, but her mother nearly passes out.
Her parents try to gently steer Sarah back to school, but she very openly and stubbornly refuses to go. She is dealing with something that will not come out in the open, but she keeps thinking about a drawing that her classmate, Carmen, had made at school. It was a tornado, and it just looked like a gray funnel cloud, but as Carmen said, people only see the outside of a tornado, but it could be hiding all kinds of things inside. The last thing Sarah’s older brother, Bruce, had said to her before he left the family nine years ago was, “You can always come stay with me, no matter where I am.” Why did he say that?
A.S. King has triumphed again in writing a beautiful, heartbreaking, coming-of-age story with an element of magical realism that works seamlessly with her nitty-gritty, deeply flawed characters. The reader yearns for Sarah to unravel her past, to expose what happened to send her into her current spiral, and to value her own artistic genius again. King explores the different forms that abuse can take and the relationships between siblings who experience abuse differently, as well as the lasting love that cannot be destroyed by all the pain.
King is one of my “always” authors. I read everything she writes, and she never goes wrong. Another King favorite of mine from a male perspective is Everybody Sees the Ants. Still Life with Tornado is for older teens and adults, and has strong language throughout.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.